FAKED – Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod allegedly morphed the photograph to claim his Everest victory

KATHMANDU:  More than five months after Nepal imposed a 10-year mountaineering ban on the Indian police couple for faking Mt Everest summit photos, the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has penalised the expedition handling agency for assisting the climbers to obtain their summit certificates.

DoT’s Director General Jaya Narayan Acharya told THT Online that Makalu Adventure, the trekking agency which ran the Everest expedition for Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari Chandrakant Bhelerao of Maharashtra, India, in the last spring, has been fined USD 4,000 for helping the police couple obtain summit certificates by submitting all fake claims to the DoT.

According to Nepal’s Tourism Act, if any agency making arrangements for mountaineering violated any provisions of the Act or Rules made thereunder or instigated others to violate them then the government might penalise it either with a ban for up to five years, a fine between Rs 5,000 and Rs 25,000 or with both.

“DoT has decided to seize USD 4,000 that Makalu Adventure deposited under the garbage collection head to run the expedition after recording statements from two Sherpas – Furba and Fursemba – who were assigned to guide the couple on Mt Everest,” Acharya said. According to him, Sherpa duo have furnished a written statement jointly at DoT a few days ago revealing that the Rathod couple had not reached above 6,000 m on Mt Everest in the last spring season.

The Rathods had obtained certificates from the DoT on June 10 by submitting morphed pictures that showed themselves on the roof of the world on May 23, 2016 with Liaison Officer Ganesh Prasad Timsina and Makalu Adventure approving their claims. The Sherpa guides, on the other hand, had remained out of contact at the time the couple’s claims were questioned.

“We were also present during a press conference organised by Makalu Adventure to announce Rathods’ ‘victory on Mt Everest’ in the first week of June,” the climbing Sherpas stated, claiming that they, however, were not aware about the motive behind the same.”

Earlier, the expedition organising company had admitted in its clarification that the photos were morphed, but it blamed the climbing Sherpas for the goof.

The photos submitted by the Rathod couple to the DoT as proofs were found faked after Satyarup Siddhanta, a climber from Bangalore, accused the police couple of plagiarising his summit photos taken while he scaled the 8,848-metre mountain on May 21.

According to DoT, its move against the handling agency would be a warning call to others to safeguard the norms and ethics of the mountain climbing.

Though the DoT has failed to take action against Liaison Officer Timsina, who endorsed the fake claim, saying he was at the Everest Base Camp for 13 days to facilitate the Rathod couple, Parliament’s International Relations and Labour Committee has sought the details of LOs who were deputed to different mountains in the last three years.

The committee would study the effectiveness of LOs after getting details from DoT.

As per the Tourism Act, the ministry may cancel travel order and may cause to return the facilities received as per the Regulation by the LO, if he/she does not accompany with the mountaineering expedition team.

“Intensive discussions are still underway to revise the existing Tourism Act and Mountaineering Regulation to rectify the loopholes,” Acharya said.

–  By Rajan Pokharel for THT

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