Indian cops con Department of Tourism?

Kathmandu, June 29

Indian police constables, who claimed to be the first police couple to have climbed the world’s highest peak last month, have allegedly morphed their pictures to get summit certificates from the government agency.

According to climbers, Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari Chandrakant Bhelerao of Maharashtra, who were part of the Makalu Adventure Everest Expedition, morphed photos to receive certificates from the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

“DoT issued certificates to Dinesh and his wife after verifying all documents, as well as summit photos, on June 10,” Gyanendra Shrestha, a DoT official, confirmed. According to him, DoT recognised their summit only after obtaining evidences from liaison officer, climbers and expedition organiser.

The photos submitted by Rathod couple to DoT as proof have, however, been found highly suspicious, as Satyarup Siddhantha, a climber from Bangalore, accused Rathods of morphing his summit photos.

DoT’s record shows Satyarup, a member of an expedition organised by Seven Summit Treks scaled Mt Everest on May 21. Rathods claim that they scaled Mt Everest on May 23.

Interestingly, colour of Dinesh’s down jacket is red and black in his individual summit photo, whereas in couple’s summit photo Dinesh’s down jacket colour is yellowish orange. In Tarkeshwari’s individual summit photo colour of her shoes is red and black, whereas in the couple’s summit photo colour of her shoes is yellow and black, though it is impossible to change costume or shoes at the top of the summit.

“Rathods’ photos with their down suit and oxygen were most likely taken either at the base camp or in a studio, and were meticulously cropped using photoshop and pasted onto the summit,” Anjali Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based climber, told this daily. A complaint has been filed at Maharashtra police commissioner’s office against the Rathods, she added.

Liaison officers rarely accompany expeditions and happily put their signatures to certify anybody’s claim after drawing nearly $3,000 for doing nothing on Mt Everest, a veteran American climber said. For Rathods, Ganesh Prasad Timsina, who serves as an officer at Kakarvitta tourism office in Jhapa, verified the couple’s claim, saying he was at Everest base camp for 13 days to monitor their activities.

Mohan Lamsal, Managing Director at Makalu Adventure Treks, said his company applied at DoT for summit certificates after Rathods presented their summit photos. “There was nothing wrong with their photos,” he said, adding that his company published all photos online with its own watermark.

Two Sherpas, Furba and Fursemba, who assisted Rathods to summit, also claimed that they were on top of the mountain on May 23, he added. The couple, as per DoT record, reached the base camp on May 17 to attempt to climb Mt Everest, while world climbers had already acclimatised in the higher camps.

Saying that verification of photographs was quite difficult, DoT official Shrestha said the department had not received any complaint against Rathods. Despite several attempts, Dinesh could not be contacted, as his phone was switched-off.