Debt-ridden 'forest man' rejects DK DC's offer, goes back to jungle

Forty-three-year-old Chandrashekar Gowda has been living in the forest at Aranthodu village of the taluk for the last 13 years after the co-operative bank officials evicted him from his house as he could not repay Rs 50,400 loan borrowed from the bank.

Gowda, a driver by profession and unmarried, was living with his two brothers, two sisters and parents before the eviction. As he could not repay the loan, the bank started issuing notices to him and finally, it obtained a decree from court to auction his house. After the bank auctioned the house on June 21, 2003, Gowda worked in a plantation for some time and later stayed with his sister for some time. Later, he started weaving baskets and selling them in Sullia market to eke out his living (which he does even to this day). Subsequently, he bought an old Premier Padmini car from an advocate and drove into forest and converted the car as his home.

According to locals, Gowda tried to repay the bank dues by whatever he could earn by selling the bamboo baskets, but in vain.

Quite interestingly, though the local dailies have been carrying some news about Gowda once in a while, it did not draw the attention of authorities concerned. However, when a TV channel repeatedly telecast the news about Gowda in mid-January, Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim decided to visit Gowda on January 22 after the Janata Darshan programme organised in the taluk.

Gowda narrated his story to the deputy commissioner. Upon verification, the deputy commissioner found that the bank had taken action as per rules and Gowda too has not questioned the bank move.

Subsequently, the deputy commissioner called Gowda to his office on January 28 and held a special meeting. Apart from representatives from co-operative society that had given the loan, well-known psychiatrist Dr Ravish Thunga, social activist Prof Hilda Rayappan and Superintendent of Police Dr S D Sharanappa attended this special meeting.

Though the DC’s statement of pursuing Gowda’s application for regularisation of one-acre land adjoining the two-acres, which he had lost, brings smile on him, he (Gowda) refused to accept the DC’s offer of staying in Mangaluru and earn living by working at Pilikula Nisargadhama by weaving bamboo baskets.

Government Wenlock Hospital Superintendent Dr H R Rajeshwari Devi was directed to conduct medical tests on Gowda. But she said Gowda arrived at hospital, but refused to undergo any tests and left the hospital. As on date, Gowda is back in the forest. He has a radio and is quite up-to-date about the happenings around, according to local scribes who visit him once in a while.

Sullia Tahsildar Ananthsh-ankar told Deccan Herald that he would pursue the matter soon after the zilla panchayat elections.

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