India: Villagers express uncertainty over cheetahs' arrival

Some people are optimistic that once the Kuno National Park becomes famous for its new entrants, increased tourist footfall will create jobs


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Published: Sun 18 Sep 2022, 10:52 AM

Amid the excitement over the arrival of cheetahs in the Kuno National Park, villagers in surrounding areas of Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur district have a variety of concerns including the fear of land acquisition and the fear of the big cat itself.

Some people are, however, optimistic that once the Kuno National Park (KNP) becomes famous for its new entrants, increased tourist footfall will create jobs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday released eight cheetahs brought from Namibia into a quarantine enclosure at the KNP as part of a project to revive the population of the animal which became extinct in India in 1952.

"What will happen to my small food outlet when remaining four-five villages are shifted for the park? We are already affected financially because of the relocation of 25 villages for the Kuno Park over the last 15 years," said Radheshyam Yadav, a vendor selling snacks and tea on Sheopur-Shivpuri road, speaking to PTI.

His shop is at Sesaipura, 15 km from the KNP.

Ramkumar Gurjar, a farmer, has apprehension that the people of Sesaipura will lose their livelihood due to a nearby dam project.

"Villages were shifted earlier for the national park. Now a dam project is coming up on the Kuno river in nearby Katila area. This project is going to affect at least 50 villages which are connected to Sesaipura. After their shifting, what will happen to grocery, clothes and other small business outlets in Sesaipura? Our village will then be left alone here," Gurjar told PTI.

Asked about the hope that the cheetahs will bring more tourists, he claimed the hospitality business will be run by "rich outsiders" and local residents will only get menial jobs in hotels and restaurants.

Santosh Gurjar, another resident, said following the shifting of villages, a local shopkeeper who sold groceries, fertilizer and seeds had to move to Shivpuri for lack of business.

Dharmendra Kumar Ojha, who runs a clothes shop, apprehended that cheetahs may enter the villages.

"What will the local people get from this project? Outsiders are buying land for hotels and restaurants. The relocation of villages will further affect the business. But the project will bring infrastructural development," Ojha said.

Surat Singh Yadav, who runs a tea shop on the road leading to the national park, believes the cheetah reintroduction project will generate employment in the area.

"Land prices are going up...those having legal title of land are asking for higher prices. There is a temporary jump in the business due to the PM's programme but I can not say about the future," he said.

Another shopkeeper, Keshav Sharma, claimed his business has grown three times.

"Land prices have gone up...tourists used to come here in small numbers earlier but their numbers will certainly go up now," he said.

Kailash, a labourer and resident of village Tiktoli, two km from the KNP's entry gate, was nervous about the future.

"I don't know about benefits, but I am afraid because the cheetah has come here. Where will we go?" he wondered.

Kamal, who belongs to Tiktoli and currently lives in Sheopur, said the village has no water supply, telephone network and jobs and the only source of livelihood is subsistence farming.


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