Amit Jaiswal sits in the darkened dining room of his Tiger Treat Resorts in a glum mood. After pooling his family savings, taking out a large loan and checking with his astrologer for an auspicious name, he opened in December here on the main road to the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve.
The rather grandiose pillared white building has a gift shop selling key chains and curly toed leather shoes, and the 80-seat dining room serving breakfast, lunch and “deener” — double e’s are good, his soothsayer said.
Their first few months went well, with up to 200 tourists a day, drawn in part by the only proper toilet for miles. Last month, however, India’s Supreme Court banned all tourism in so-called core areas of India’s 41 tiger parks in a bid to protect the national animal.
That has been bad news for hotels and resorts just outside the Ranthambhore park. Summer is low season as heavy monsoon rains set in, so the full impact hasn’t been felt. But Tiger Treat, with its staff of five, is down to two or three tourists a day. At this rate, Jaiswal, 33, fears he’ll have to sell out, without much hope of recouping the $200,000 investment beyond the value of the land.
“It came like a bolt of lightning,” he said, standing near an array of dusty souvenirs. “It looks all but over for us.”
Although disputes over unchecked development are nothing new, even many environmentalists think the judges are misguided, however well-intentioned, in their efforts to protect the tigers from extinction. Some even suggest the court was lashing out in frustration because 10 states had ignored its order in April to