Cheetahs were brought to the Kuno National Park (KNP) from Africa to divert the attention of people from the refusal to shift Gir lions from Gujarat to the facility, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath alleged on Sunday.
He also frowned upon the “cheetah event”, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the eight carnivores in special enclosures, saying Sheopur district, in which KNP is situated, is the most malnourished district in India.
Taking a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled government at the Centre and Gujarat, Nath claimed when he was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh he had tried to get lions from Gir, but his request was turned down.
Nath’s comments came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi released eight cheetahs into special enclosures at the KNP in the Sheopur district. The fastest land animal was introduced in India 70 years after the local cheetahs had gone extinct.
“Actually, lions should have come to KNP. When I was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh (from December 17, 2018, to March 22, 2022), I tried hard to bring lions to KNP. I talked to the government and all preparations were made. I asked for lions but I was refused,” he told reporters without elaborating.
“You didn’t send us lions from Gujarat but cheetahs were flown in to divert the attention,” he added.
Nath said Sheopur is the most malnourished district in India and the government data supports this fact.
“A camp should have been put to eradicate malnourishment but they wanted to perform a cheetah event. Cheetahs would have come after a month,” he said.
The senior Congress leader also said Sheopur is the poorest district.
He alleged the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh was not concerned over the health of residents of Sheopur.
According to wildlife activists, KNP was readied for lions but the Gujarat government did not part with them.
“More than 600 lions might face an existential crisis if a disease breaks out in Gujarat’s Gir. Still, there is room to translocate lions to KNP given that cheetahs and lions live together in Africa,” said Ajay Dubey, founder secretary of Prayatna, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).