Case booked against team for entering forest without permit
A Chennai-based techie, who went missing during a trekking expedition in the Western Ghats near Sakleshpur on Saturday, was traced on Tuesday afternoon.
Srikant Balaji (24), who works for Infosys in Chennai, wandered in the forests for three days before reaching Kabbinahalli, near Hassan–Mangalore highway.
Balaji was part of a 14-member team which went on a four-day trekking expedition in the ghats organised by the Chennai Trekking Club.
He got separated from the team around 11.30 a.m. on Saturday, a couple of hours after the trek started from the base camp at Aramane Gudda.
Mr. Balaji reached Kabbinahalli on Tuesday morning, where Santhosh, a resident of the village, offered him food and helped him contact his father over phone. By then, his father, Amaran, had reached Sakleshpur along with his relatives. After being informed, the Sakleshpur police rescued him.
“I missed my team because I stopped for a while to get rid of leeches that were on my feet. I shouted, but none could hear me because of the noise of a stream close by. By 2 p.m. on Saturday, I realised that I can’t reach my team members,” he told presspersons after reaching Sakleshpur.
Mr. Balaji’s cellphone with GPS facility was of no use as the battery died by Saturday evening. “I could not see around because of the thick fog… I was determined to return safe, though I kept losing hope often,” he said. He said he slept under trees and saw many wild animals.
“I decided to follow a stream on Sunday afternoon, in the hope that I could reach the highway. I finally reached the highway on Tuesday morning,” Mr. Balaji said.
As he got down from the police vehicle in Sakleshpur, Mr. Amaran hugged him, and both of them were in tears for a few minutes.
To a question, he said he did commit a mistake by entering the forest without seeking the permission of the Department of Forests and sought apologies.
The department booked cases against all the 14 members of the team for entering the forest without permit.
S.S. Madhukeshwar, Assistant Commissioner of Sakleshpur subdivision, told presspersons that according to Section 24 of the Karnataka Forests Act, entering a reserve forest was an offence.
Another team of seven trekkers, all Bangaloreans, was detained by department officers on Tuesday afternoon and a case booked against them for trespassing forest areas, according to Mr. Madhukeshwar.