CHENNAI/HASSAN: The 24-year-old software engineer from Chennai who went missing in a monsoon braving expedition in the dense forest of Sakleshpur in Hassan district of Karnataka was traced by the district police on Tuesday about 40 km away from where he had gone missing on Saturday. The police were assisted by revenue officials and Anti-Naxal Force personnel in the operation.
Srikanth Balaji (24), employed with an IT major, was left behind at the 8th km of the four-day/three-night trek in the Western Ghats, organised by the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC), apparently when he bent down to tie his shoe laces. The group, led by CTC founder Peter Van Geit, divided themselves into buddy peers and other smaller groups to search for him, but their efforts were in vain.
According to the police, Srikanth, after being separated from the group, established internet contact with Kannada and Culture Department Secretary Manu Baligar via his laptop. Baligar in turn contacted Deputy Commissioner of Hassan V Anbu Kumar. On information, Superintendent of Police Ravi D Channannavar and his team reached Sakleshpur. They located Srikanth at the Bisle Reserve Forest alongside Hemavathi river.
Meanwhile, based on a complaint by Forest Department officials, cases of trespassing were registered against the trekkers for violating the Forest Act and entering the reserve without permission.
Speaking to Express, Srikanth’s father, ‘MGR’ Amaran, said his son braved the entire stretch of the trekking path alone with the help of a map and few other essentials of his trekking kit. “He is tall and could move fast. He got confused after being left behind by the group when he halted to tie his shoe laces,” Amaran said.
“After he was left behind at the 8th km, my son continued to walk towards the end point. He got astray when the trail diversified into three routes. He took the one heading southeast and continued walking,” he added. “It was because of his strong will that my son could brave the dangerous forest filled with cobras, leeches and bisons.” Amaran added that Srikanth suffered a few bruises in his leg but was otherwise fine.
Srikanth, meanwhile, said he didn’t know how he got separated from the group. “I couldn’t see anything because of the heavy rains and mist,” he said.