Cheetahs now have a grand home in Kuno National Park, but not all are happy

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In a historic development, cheetahs were on Saturday reintroduced to Indian wildlife in a bid to revive the big cat’s population years after they became extinct. Eight cheetahs were flown all the way from Namibia and released into Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While there is excitement at some corners over the cheetah reintroduction programme, villagers in surrounding areas of Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district have raised a few concerns, with the fear of the big cat itself being one of the top issues.

Many people are choosing to look at the brighter side of things about how the new residents can make the national park famous and lead to an increase in tourist footfall which will further create jobs. Others, however, are worried about the future of their small businesses.

“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 the park over the last 15 years,” Radheshyam Yadav, a vendor selling snacks and tea on Sheopur-Shivpuri road, was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. His shop is at Sesaipura, 15km from the national park.

Ramkumar Gurjar, a farmer, expressed his fears of losing their livelihood due to a nearby dam project.

“Villages were shifted earlier for the national park. Now, a dam project is coming up on Kuno river in the 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? Then our village will be left alone here,” Gurjar told PTI.

Dharmendra Kumar Ojha, who runs a clothes shop, said the 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.

One Surat Singh Yadav, who runs a tea shop on the road leading to the national park, hopes that 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 business due to the PM’s programme, but I can not say about the future,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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