A man has been living in his car parked in forests for nearly 14 years after he lost his 2.29 acre farm land as he could not pay a loan of Rs 50,400 to a co-operative society.
Moved by his plight, district officials are taking efforts to rehabilitate the man who has been living a solitary life in the forests near Sullia and earning his livelihood by weaving baskets.
Chandrashekar Gowda, now 43, chose a forced exile and entered the forests to find a place to live after Nelluru Kemraje co-operative society auctioned his 2.29 acre farm land in 2002 for non-repayment of a loan of Rs 50,400.
He bought a second hand car and parked it in the forest bordering Sullia and made it his home. He has been travelling 21 km to Sullia on foot once in a week all these years to sell the baskets he weaved at Rs 40 apiece.
The story, aired recently by a Kannada channel, grabbed the attention of Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner A B Ibrahim, who has initiated steps for his rehabilitation, sources at the DC’s office said.
Ibrahim convened a special meeting on January 28 to discuss the issue and brought Gowda to Mangaluru to hear his version of the story. Besides Gowda, representatives of the Nelluru Kemraje co-operative society from where he took the loan, social activist Hilda Rayappan, psychiatrist Ravish Thunga and district superintendent of police S D Sharanappa attended the meeting.
Gowda explained that he had taken a short-term loan and two crop loans totalling Rs 50,400 from the society in 1999. The society initiated proceedings against him in 2002 as he failed to repay the amount in time.
The society auctioned the land for Rs 1.2 lakh in October 2002 and after deducting the amount that was due, the suspense account Rs 11,000 was kept with it, which had not been claimed by Gowda so far. He was evicted from the land with police help and his house was demolished.
Gowda then stayed at his sister’s house for a brief while, before buying a car from a lawyer in Sullia to make a ‘home.’ He parked it in a clearing on the edge of the forests of Bedrupane in Arantodu near Sullia where he had been living all these years.
Asked why he chose the strenuous life in the forests, Gowda told the meeting that after he lost his house and land, there was nowhere else to go. He often had to spend sleepless nights in the forest with wild animals roaming around.
Gowda also did not hide his grudge against a few persons in his village who did not help him at the time of crisis, while answering questions from social activist Rayappan and psychiatrist Thunga.
Ibrahim said he would consider Gowda’s request for regularisation of the one-acre plot near the two acres of land he had lost, which made him happy.
However, Gowda turned down the offer placed before him to stay in Mangaluru and earn a living by weaving baskets at ‘Nisargadhama’ eco-education and tourism development park at Pilikula near here.
After the meeting, Thunga said Gowda showed an ‘odd behaviour’ at times and he recommended some psychiatric tests on him. Government Wenlock hospital superintendent H Rajeshwari Devi had been asked to arrange for the tests, he said.
Ibrahim said the district administration would ensure that Gowda got a safe place for living and efforts would be made to convince him to start a new life in Mangaluru.
Gowda would also be provided legal aid to fight the case against the co-operative society which, he alleged, had shown injustice to him.