Amid the excitement over the arrival of cheetahs in the Kuno National Park (KNP) located in the Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh, people living in the surrounding areas are now worried that their land will be acquired and there will also be a human-animal conflict.
However, some people are optimistic that once Kuno National Park (KNP) becomes famous for its new entrants, increased tourist footfall will create jobs.
On September 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released eight cheetahs imported from Namibia into a quarantine area in the KNP as part of a mission to restore the animal, which went extinct in India in 1952.
"What will happen to my small food outlet when the remaining four-five villages are shifted for the park? We are already affected financially because of the relocation of 25 villages for Kuno Park over the last 15 years," media reports quoted Radheshyam Yadav, a vendor selling snacks and tea on the Sheopur-Shivpuri road as saying.
Yadav's shop is located in Sesaipura, around 15 kilometers from the KNP.
Meanwhile, another farmer Ramkumar Gurjar is concerned that a neighbouring dam project may cause the residents of Sesaipura to lose their livelihood.
"Villages were shifted earlier for the national park. Now a dam project is coming up on the Kuno river in the nearby Katila area. This project is going to affect at least 50 villages that are connected to Sesaipura. After their shift, what will happen to grocery, clothes, and other small business outlets in Sesaipura? Our village will then be left alone here," Gurjar told the media.
Commenting on a question that the cheetahs will bring more visitors, Gurjar said that the hospitality industry will be governed by "wealthy outsiders," while locals only get menial employment in hotels and restaurants.
Another villager, Dharmendra Kumar Ojha, who owns a clothing store, believes cheetahs may reach 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 a 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 is from Tiktoli but now resides in Sheopur, claims that the hamlet has no water supply, telephone network, or jobs and that the main source of income is subsistence farming.
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