Nepal bans Indian couple for faking Everest summit

KATHMANDU: The Government of Nepal has imposed a 10-year ban on the Indian police couple for morphing the photographs to obtain their Everest summit certificates, from visiting Nepal for mountaineering expedition.

As per the minister-level decision, Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari Chandrakant Bhelerao, who face a decade-long ban, also got their certificates rescinded. After a month-long investigation, the Nepali investigators concluded that the photographs submitted to the Department of Tourism by the Maharashtra police couple as evidence of their Everest summit in the last spring season were doctored.

“Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Jeeban Bahadur Shahi endorsed the legal action against the Rathods as per a recommendation made by the investigation committee on Monday evening,” Joint Secretary Ghanashyam Upadhyaya, who heads the Tourism Industry Division at the ministry, told this daily.

The panel found that the Rathods made a false claim of having reached the summit point on May 23 as they morphed the photographs while applying for the summit certificates. The photos submitted by the Rathod couple were found faked after Satyarup Siddhanta, an Indian climber from Bangalore, accused the couple of doctoring his May 21 photographs atop the Mt Everest.

“The DoT will inform the Embassy of India about the government’s action against the Rathods through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a day or two,” DoT’s Director General Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal said.

The investigation concluded without summoning the Indian couple and their climbing Sherpas. The panel has not explained how and when the photos were doctored.

“The panel has not described that how the couple accessed to Satyarup’s photographs,” a source close to DoT said, adding that the report was also silent about the process and the persons involved in morphing the photographs.

“The incident largely lacked an in-depth investigation as the panel consisted of a DoT representative who was also in-charge of the mountaineering section that issued the summit certificates to the Rathods.”

Meanwhile, the DoT handed over a summit certificate to Satyarup on Monday after cancelling the certificates that the DoT had provided to the Rathods on June 10.

The government though punished the Indian couple for violating the provisions of the mountaineering regulation has not recommended any action against its officials who recommended and provided them the certificates by endorsing the fake claims.

Also, the expedition handling agency – Makalu Adventure Treks – was only warned to be careful in future while applying for the summit certificates.

Regarding the action against the climbing Sherpas — Furba from Sankhuwasabha and Fursemba from Solukhumbu — who accompanied the Rathods to Everest region, the DoT would decide later as they were still out of reach, Dhakal said.

The probe panel, however, endorsed the ‘fake’ claim made by liaison officer Ganesh Prasad Timsina, saying he was at the Everest Base Camp for 13 days to facilitate the Rathod couple.

THT investigation earlier disclosed that Timsina had left the base camp on May 14, the same day of his arrival.

Not only Timsina, only seven of 58 LOs who were assigned to facilitate the world climbers in the Everest region last spring stayed more than two weeks at the base camp.

Though members of at least 16 teams on Mt Everest expedition and seven others on Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse never got to see their LOs at base camp in the last season, all LOs submitted their expedition report to the DoT with a claim that they stayed at the base camp for two-three weeks in order to prohibit the expedition teams or their members from indulging in any unauthorised activities.

Government officers often charge up to USD 3000 each from the Everest expeditions in a season without serving the world climbers, according to expedition organisers.

The Director General also admitted that the liaison officers failed to perform as prescribed in the mountaineering regulation. “Ministry should investigate the matter as it assigns the government officers to look after different expeditions,” Dhakal said.

Joint Secretary Upadhyaya claimed that the ministry had not received any complaint about LOs to initiate the investigation process.