Panel proposes action against fake rescuers

Kathmandu, July 30

A panel formed by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation today submitted its report to Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari recommending action against fake rescuers of mountaineers and trekkers and initiating key reforms to ensure safety, reliability and regularity of services to tourists.

The panel report has underscored that rescue works should be done on humanitarian grounds and recommended measures to eliminate fake rescue works that are being carried out by a few helicopter companies, hospitals and travel and trekking companies to make money through ‘illegal means’.

“It has tarnished Nepal’s image and recommendations have been made to investigate suspected helicopter companies, hospitals and trekking/travel and rescue companies based on the complaints,” adds the report.

The panel has recommended further investigation into three helicopter companies, four hospitals, and eight travel, trekking and rescue companies and for cases to be filed against them under The Revenue Leakage (Investigation and Control) Act-1995. Those recommended for further investigation have claimed insurance at high costs and earned an excessive profit without a valid source, according to Ghanashyam Upadhyay, convener of the probe panel.

To prevent the monopoly of private companies in rescue operations, the panel has suggested that all rescue works be channelised through Nepal Police from the coming autumn season (September to November). Nepal Police should abide by public procurement regulation while selecting helicopter companies and hospitals for the rescue and treatment of tourists, as per the panel report. “Nepal Police can spend immediately for rescue works from its welfare fund and be reimbursed through the insurance claim.”

The panel has suggested the establishment of a ‘Tourist Rescue Coordination Room’ for six months in a year — from March to May and September to November — and urged implementation of the Mountaineering and Trekking Search and Rescue Guidelines as early as possible.

The panel has recommended action to be taken as an organised crime against helicopter companies, hospitals and travel/trekking companies found to be guilty and also against those that have not taken approval from the central bank to make transactions in foreign currency but have obtained payments in convertible foreign currency. It has recommended such parties to be penalised as per the provision of Foreign Exchange (Regularisation) Act.