A Report on the Successful Block-Level Meetings for Streamlining CFR Rights Reservation Claims

The successful implementation of Community Forest Rights (CFR) rights reservation claims in India requires a strong foundation, which was established through a series of block-level meetings. In September, the Project Specialist, Mr. Sandip Chowdhury, proactively prepared an agenda document to obtain permissions and schedule dates with the Collector’s office. This agenda helped conduct three pilot block meetings, aimed at increasing CFR rights reservation claim filing. 

The first meeting, held at the Kolebira block, was attended by representatives of the forest department, revenue department, panchayat mukhiyas, ward members, gram pradhans, the Circle Inspector and officers of the block and was a great success with the support of the BIPP-ISB team. The subsequent meetings in Jaldega and Bano blocks saw a larger turnout, thanks to the positive outcome of the first meeting. 

There was tremendous enthusiasm across all stakeholder groups, which was prominently garnered prompt support from DFO Forest Department by having the range officer/forest guard attend the meetings. PHIA Foundation’s CFR rights reservation campaign current work to strengthen Gram Sabhas is facilitating our work in this region. The Pramukh of the Bano block was enthusiastic about CFR rights reservation and gave a stirring call of action to all Pradhans, Mukhiyas, and Ward Members in the meeting.    

The meetings were conducted with excellent planning and preparation, helping us see an increased positive response in each meeting. A conveniently designed single-page flow chart of CFR rights reservation claim activities was designed after compressing the long-existing complicated document. The document, prepared by our Project Specialist Mr. Sandip Chowdhury, was distributed among the Mukhiyas/FRCs during the meetings for them to check the essential steps of the proceedings in claim filing. It explained how the claim activities linked with the forms available on the RatiFi app helped them move ahead effortlessly at a faster pace. The experience of CFR rights recognition in other states using government machinery added a sense of ownership among the block officials.    

During the block meetings, we explained the importance of IoFE and CFR and their potential at the block level to motivate everyone to do their best. We delineated the roles of each stakeholder involved in gaining Secure Tenure. Knowing the importance motivated them to act efficiently, avoiding delays. We discussed the potential roadblocks and challenges in conducting Gram Sabhas in the meetings and ideated the best possible solutions.   

One key element that facilitated the success of the meetings was the distribution of a convenient, single-page flow chart of CFR rights reservation claim activities, which was prepared by Mr. Chowdhury. This document, which distilled a previously long and complicated process into an easily understood format, was distributed among the Mukhiyas/FRCs, who were able to use it to check the essential steps of the claim filing process and understand how the available forms on the RatiFi app could help them move forward more quickly. 

During the meetings, the importance of the IoFE and CFR initiatives was emphasized, and the roles of each stakeholder in securing Secure Tenure were clearly outlined. Potential roadblocks and challenges in conducting Gram Sabhas were also discussed, and the best possible solutions were ideated. We distributed the process flow documents and the first three forms required (notification, GS notice, GS karywahi) to complete the first stage of work to the mukhiyas, primarily women. Additionally, other documents detailing out our work were distributed to the mukhiyas, primarily women, who were eager to start working on the claims process. 

The field coordinator is now working to ensure that the process flows seamlessly, in collaboration with Panchayat Sachivalayas, newly elected FRCs, village presidents, and secretaries, utilizing the RatiFi app for documentation. Overall, the block-level meetings have proven to be a crucial step in the process of constituting and reconstituting FRCs through Gram Sabhas, and are a testament to the potential of using open source remote sensing and AI technology to aid forest communities in supplying forest-based bamboo in a sustainable way. 

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