Villagers Near Kuno National Park Fear Land Acquisition and the Cheetah Itself

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

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Sheopur (Madhya Pradesh): 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 becomes famous for its new entrants, increased tourist footfall will create jobs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, September 17 released eight cheetahs brought from Namibia into a quarantine enclosure at the national park 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,” Radheshyam Yadav, a vendor selling snacks and tea on Sheopur-Shivpuri road, told news agency Press Trust of India.

His shop is at Sesaipura, 15 kilometre from the Kuno National Park.

Ramkumar Gurjar, a farmer, said 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 that 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 after the shifting of the villages, a local shopkeeper who used to sold groceries, fertiliser and seeds had to move to Shivpuri due to a lack of business opportunities.

Dharmendra Kumar Ojha, who runs a garment shop, expressed his apprehension 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.

Also read: Project Cheetah ‘Tamasha Orchestrated by PM’, Was Approved by Manmohan Govt: Congress

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 the 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, 2 km from the national park’s entry gate, was nervous about the future.

“I don’t know about the benefits, but I am afraid because the cheetah has come here. Where will we go?” he said.

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.