Himalayan Con: Nepal tourism department admits to goof-up in certification process
Pune: The Nepal tourism department and Makalu Adventures, who organised the climb for the Pune constable couple at the centre of the Everest summit scandal, are now busy passing the buck.
The tourism department is in charge of certifying all climbers who reach the summit of all peaks in Nepal, including Mt Everest. It is this department that had certified that Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod had reached the Everest summit on May 23, 2016. Mohan Lamsal, MD of Makalu Adventures, has named Gyanendra Shrestha, head of mountaineering with the tourism department, as the official who certified the Rathod couple's 'feat'.
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When mid-day contacted Shrestha at his office, he said, "The certificate to the Rathods was given based on the photos submitted by Makalu Adventures. The liaison officer, Ganesh Timisina, from our department, has signed the form." Despite several attempts, Timisina was unavailable for comment. Asked why the climbing Sherpas, Furba and Fursemba, were not interviewed to verify the Rathods' claim, Shrestha said, "It is not necessary for the climbing Sherpas to be present for the debriefing."
However, mountaineers and Sherpas of repute in Nepal have said that a certificate of a successful summit is issued after the expedition leader, the expedition-operating company, the two mandatory Sherpa guides and the liaison officer attest that the climber or climbers made it to the top. The climbing community is wondering why the tourism department officials were in such a hurry to issue the certificate without the formalities being completed. In the case of the Rathods, the certificate had clearly been issued without the statements of the Sherpa guides.
Maharashtra Police constables Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod
As per mountaineering regulations, the liaison officer submits a detailed report on expeditions and the tourism department records statements from expedition members as well as their climbing Sherpas to verify their claims. The tourism department gives expedition members summit certificates only after recording multiple statements and verifying summit evidence, including photographs.
The police couple accompanied by Makalu Adventure representatives submitted the photographs, while the liaison officer had filled a standard form as a formality, "We have gone purely by the liaison officer's signature, the claims of Makalu Adventures and the photos presented to us," Shrestha said.
Lamsal initially confirmed that Furba and Fursemba were present during the tourism department's debriefing during verification of the couple's claims. He said, "The two climbing sherpas were present at the press conference on June 5 along with the Rathods in Kathmandu to announce their successful summit of Mt Everest."
The certificate trail
Explaining how the Rathods were given a certificate, Lamsal said, "The Rathods along with Shrestha left for Lukla from Kathmandu around May 2. The liaison officer left somewhere around May 7 for Lukla. The Rathod couple, along with the two climbing Sherpas, claimed to have reached the summit on May 23. They returned to the base camp on May 28 (ideally it takes just two days to get to base camp). On May 29, Tarkeshwari was admitted to hospital where, according to Lamsal, she was being treated for symptoms of pneumonia.
After being discharged, the Rathods called a press conference on June 5, where they announced their feat." The Rathods got their certificate only on June 10, yet called a press conference five days before that.
Lamsal confirmed that he submitted photos that were given to him by Dinesh Rathod. He said, "These photos are in the tourism department file as well. The same photos were put up on our website." When asked why he had pulled the pictures off the website he said, "I got a whatsapp message from Dinesh Rathod asking him to take off the pictures. On June 30, Shrestha called Lamsal to explain the Rathods' summit claim. Lamsal said, "I have given them my clarification."
The Rathods are being called to Kathmandu to be interrogated by the Nepal tourism department officials. If the Rathods' claims are found fake their summit certificates will be cancelled. Bibhas Chatterjee, the lawyer of Satyarup Siddhanta, whose pictures had been morphed by the Rathods, said, "A complaint has been filed at the cyber police station in Kolkata for impersonation for the purposes of cheating, keeping in mind the modus of the crime in the virtual world."