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A Matter of Trust

The following two letters are (1) an open letter from several Baba-lovers concerned about rumors about  the Avatar Meher Baba Trust circulating in the Meher Baba community and (2) the reply to this letter from the Trustees of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust.

[1]

September 28th 2011

Dear Trustees,

Please note: this is an open letter to the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust.

This letter is an urgent request for your help. Out of concern and respect for the AMBPPCT and its Trustees, both individually and collectively, we feel duty bound to share that which has been brought to our attention.

The following points give specific examples of reports, stories and rumors that are of current concern. The implications of these concerns threaten to seriously undermine the credibility and leadership of The Trust in the eyes of its many supporters worldwide.

As such we feel compelled to ask each and every one of you to respond openly and honestly to the following concerns and questions.

We, the undersigned, have personally received many of the following accounts from multiple sources and/or had direct personal experiences of one or more of these concerns.

We, and we alone, take full and frank responsibility for this letter.

1. Donations

i. Baba lovers report that donations to The Trust, whether monetary or non-monetary, have gone into the personal accounts or homes of Trustees.

ii. Donors report that they have not received receipts for donations given, despite asking for them.

iii. We have heard that one or more Trustees have received cash donations from Baba centers in India and abroad, for which there may not be full and frank disclosure or ongoing accountability.

iv. Some donors have been disappointed that they have not been able to ‘earmark’ their donations for a specific project, as was done in the past. Donors are now being told by one or more Trustees that there is no longer an accounting process within The Trust that would allow for the ‘earmarking’ of donations. Please clarify this issue by explaining whether or not ‘earmarking’ is possible, and if not, why not.

v. Baba lovers have reported that one or more Trustees have solicited money for personal and/or family use.

vi. We know from a significant number of Baba lovers worldwide that their response to various stories and experiences reported here has been to stop giving donations to The Trust.
vii. Baba lovers have reported being actively discouraged by one or more Trustees from contributing to or supporting other charitable endeavors in India.

2. Personal use of Trust funds

i. Baba lovers report that certain personal expenses of one or more Trustees may have been paid with Trust funds; specifically that personal travel and medical expenses have been paid in this way. Does The Trust regard the use of Trust funds for the personal expenses of Trustees as legitimate?

3. Land acquisition

i. Baba lovers report having felt pressured by one or more of The Trustees to sell land around Meherabad to The Trust.

ii. At least one individual reports having sold land to The Trust for which they have still not received payment, several years after the event.

iii. Baba lovers have reported feeling intimidated and/or pressured by one or more Trustees to sell land to The Trust and/or donate money to The Trust. Some individuals report that this pressure has been exerted publicly, leading to uncomfortable situations.

iv. Some Baba lovers have reported that Trust money has been used to purchase property which has then been placed in the ownership of individual Trustees or their family members, based on the promise that these properties will be gifted or willed to the Trust at some future time. Are there any such circumstances known to any of the Trustees? If so, were these arrangements approved by the Trust at large, are there records of these transactions, and are there written, contractual provisions under which these properties, namely those purchased with Trust money, will be returned to the ownership of the Trust?

v. In an attempt to dispel suspicion please tell us if there is an ongoing accounting of land transactions conducted by Trustees.

4. Business Interests

i. Is The Trust aware of reports that Trustees and/or their families may be planning, involved with or profiting from business interests and transactions around Meherabad? What guidelines have been laid out by The Trust concerning such transactions?

ii. Some Baba lovers report that Trustees and/or their families have received commissions or other fees associated with local property transactions, conducted on behalf of Trustees, family of Trustees and/or Baba lovers. What is The Trust’s policy on Trustees profiting from such transactions?

5. Decision making process

i. Some Baba lovers have expressed concern over reports that Trust decisions have been made and are being made for the benefit of one or more Trustees and their business interests, and not in accordance with Baba’s wishes or directives.

6. The Trust

i. A number or individuals have expressed concern at not knowing who The Trustees are or how to contact them. On looking at the website for the AMBPPCT, we found the following in the Declaration of Trust, buried in the website: “The list of the present Board of Trustees of Avatar Meher Baba P.P.C. Trust January 2002
1. Shri Vir Singh Kalchuri (Chairman)
2. Shri Ali Ramjoo (Trustee)
3. Shri Chintaman Vishnu Natu (Trustee)
4. Shri (Dr.) D. N. Kerawala (Trustee)
5. Shri Jal P. Dastoor (Trustee)
6. Shri Jagannath Keshav Rangole (Trustee)
7. Shri Jehangir M. Sukhadwala (Trustee)
8. Shri Mehernath B. Kalchuri (Trustee)
9. Shri Framroze J. Mistry (Trustee)
10. Shri Shridhar Kelkar (Trustee)” sic

Obviously this does not accurately reflect the list of current Trustees. Why is this both difficult to find when looking over the Trust’s website, and why is it not up to date? In addition, how might someone contact an individual Trustee, should they wish?

It is our heartfelt intention to support The Trust by bringing the above concerns to your attention. We feel strongly that you should know what is being reported by a growing number of Baba lovers worldwide. These concerns make it difficult, if not impossible to have full faith in The Trust. We respectfully ask for your help in restoring faith and confidence in the integrity of The Trust so that we may all move forward in a spirit of honest communication, mutual support and trust. We would welcome a heartfelt response  from yourselves.

In Baba’s Love,

Jay Shauer
Renee Bussanich
Barbara Shauer
Diane Tower-Jones
Laurent Weichberger
Scott Tower
Pat Griffin
Barbara Katzenberg
Michael Ivey
Winnie Barrett
Ken Lux
Jim Watson
Judith Ernst

[2]

AVATAR MEHER BABA PERPETUAL PUBLIC CHARITABLE TRUST
Post Bag No. 31, King’s Road, Ahmednagar – 414 001, Maharashtra State, INDIA
REGD. NO. E – 150A UNDER THE BOMBAY PUBLIC TRUSTS ACT, 1950
Registered Under Section 12 – A of Income Tax Act, 1961 No. CH –P – ANGR –1487 – 75 – 76
80 – G Certificate issued by the Commissioner Income Tax, Nasik,
Regd. No. 083720042 Under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976
PAN AAATA 3271B

Shri V. S. Kalchuri, Chairman

Date: 17th November 2011

Dear Baba Lovers,

Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai.

We are writing to bring you up to date on many things concerning the Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust.

As most of you know, the Trust was established by Meher Baba Himself in 1959. A great deal of important background and history regarding the Trust can be found at our website: ambppct.org.

While Baba signed the Trust Deed on April 6, 1959, the Trust remained inactive for the remaining ten years of His Life. In the 1960’s, Baba gave certain instructions to the trustees for the future about spiritual training and educating the public about His message and life. These were later incorporated into the Trust Deed.

As a part of the Trust Deed, Baba also specified that, after He had passed away, the Trust should maintain and care for His Tomb at Meherabad, create facilities for pilgrims there, foster spiritual and cultural activities relating to the spreading of His message, and carry out certain charitable activities for the benefit of humanity irrespective of caste, creed, religion, sex or nationality.

For most of its history since 1969, the Trust has been led first by Baba’s sister and intimate disciple, Mani, and then by Bhau Kalchuri, also a member of Meher Baba’s mandali. With the leadership of the Trust vested in a mandali member trained by Meher Baba, a great deal of respect was naturally given to the experience and authority that came from a life of close personal service given to the Lord.

There is no doubt that an enormous amount of remarkable work has been accomplished by the Trust over the last few decades. Against the many systemic challenges that governmental regulations have entailed, with Baba’s help and guidance, Bhau, in particular, has made many things possible for the Trust that were considered virtually impossible. Before Mani left us, she personally reached out to Bhau to become the next Chairman of the Trust. Much good work has been done with Bhau as our Chair for the last fifteen years.

With the failing and fragile nature of Bhau’s health since the beginning of the year, we want you to know that Bhau is no longer able to attend to the day to day matters of the Trust. There is no doubt that this is a moment of significant transition for the Trust and as such, it represents a critical moment in time. It is a moment in which deep thought and self-examination is appropriate to define and determine how the Trust can best uphold the charge given to it by Meher Baba.

As such, the remaining trustees have been working on the many adjustments that will come as the Trust moves out of an era when its Chairperson was a mandali member. Each of us has been managing different aspects of the Trust for many years. The time has come now for us to create a new “post-mandali” culture in managing the affairs of the Trust enriched by legacy of the mandalis’ life of love and service to their Lord.

To share with you a few such changes: We now have increased the number of Board Meetings and meet more often informally to keep ourselves abreast of the changing needs of the Trust. The Board has been developing a more defined financial policy for over a year with a particular focus on an enhanced system of checks and balances to safeguard the financial integrity of the Trust. A small working group has also been formed to develop and implement this policy. We are currently formulating a formal code of ethics to provide transparency. And while the Trust already shares its financial information on an annual basis and is also subject to strict auditing under Indian government regulations, we will be exploring new ways in which we can share financial information with the community of Baba’s lovers.

In addition, we are restructuring our committees and activities so that at least two Trustees together with other Residents are on each committee. When Eruch was asked about how the Trust should manage its affairs in the light of what Beloved Baba had said about the New Humanity he said, “Best is joint responsibility.” We believe this is true as it will help in the sharing of information and accountability. We are also implementing new policy initiatives where needed. One such example is in the selection of sponsorship to join the Spiritual Training Program. Selection once was in the hands of the Mandali, now the entire Board participates in the approval of sponsorship and visa renewal. As we have been busy facing this new world of change, in the last few months, we have received correspondence expressing questions, concerns and misgivings about a wide range of subjects regarding different aspects of the way in which the Trust functions. While many excellent questions have been raised, we have also been on the receiving end of various rumors, allegations and unsubstantiated accusations that are simply not true. Many people have reported on what they have heard second or third hand or on something that has no attribution at all.

We do not take any of these issues lightly and consider all of this communication to be motivated by a heartfelt concern for the well being of the Trust. However, in order for us to engage in a meaningful response, we need to hear about people’s first hand, direct experiences.

Most of the concerns that we have recently received revolve, in one way or another, around how the Trust deals with donations.

As a matter of principle, we state categorically, that we do not believe anyone should ever be pressured to make a donation to the Trust, that no trustee should receive any financial benefit from being a trustee, that every donation should be acknowledged with a receipt and that donations accepted for a particular purpose should be used as designated.

Concerning land, both Mani and Bhau were very focused and eager to purchase all land around Beloved Baba’s Samadhi for the Trust. They also asked certain close Baba Lovers to join in and help with this endeavor. All land purchased for this purpose has long since been given to the Trust. Although, this is a significant achievement, there are still many acres of land near the Samadhi that need to be purchased by the Trust in order to secure the whole area soon to become a place of pilgrimage for the world.

It would be most productive for the Trustees to hear from people who have first-hand, direct experience with the Trust that has left them troubled. The best way to do this is in a personal conversation with its opportunities for a true exchange, rather than through email or other written forms of communication. You may contact any of the Trustees without hesitation and you will have our full support and thanks in doing so. To do this, first contact any of us through email in order to set up an appointment on the phone. You may find our emails on the Trust Web Site at http://www.ambppct.org/ under “Contact Us.” However, in order to streamline this process, as primary points of contact, you may communicate with Craig Ruff, Heather Nadel, Falu Mistry or Shridhar Kelkar. Craig’s email address is craig@mail.ambppct.org. Heather’s is heather@ambppct.org. Falu’s email is framrozemistry@gmail.com and Shridhar’s is shridharkelkar7@gmail.com.

While we continue to learn and grow in managing Baba’s Trust, please know that the trustees are wholeheartedly engaged in working to make the future of the Trust something that Baba Himself would be pleased to see in action.

In the Love and Service of Avatar Meher Baba,

Ali Ramjoo
Jal P. Dastoor
Jehangir. M. Sukhadwala
Mehernath. B. Kalchuri
Framroze. J. Mistry
Shridhar Kelkar
Craig I. Ruff
Ramesh L. Jangle
Heather F. Nadel

The Trustees,
Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust
Ahmednagar, India

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