India police couple sacked over fake Mt Everest climb

Suspended police constable couple Dinesh and Tarkeshwari Rathod, who had faked their scaling of the Mount Everest in May 2016, have been dismissed from the police service, a senior official said.

Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod, both police constables, said they reached the top of the world’s highest mountain on May 23, 2016 – but fellow climbers cast doubt on their claim, saying their photos at the summit were doctored. Nepal’s tourism department initially certified the couple’s climb after speaking to their expedition organisers and government officials stationed at Everest base camp.

However, following the allegations, which gained speed online after climbers pointed out that the clothes they were wearing in different photos did not match, Kathmandu opened a probe. “The expedition agency has confirmed that the photos submitted to the department were morphed by the Indian couple in order to get the certificate,” Nepal tourism official Gyanendra Kumar Shrestha told AFP.

“The couple faked about the Everest ascent, morphed the photographs, shared misleading information and while doing this, brought disrepute to the Maharashtra police department and did not report to duty. Based on the inquiry, we dismissed the couple from the department and an order to this effect was issued on Saturday,” said Sahebrao Patil, additional commissioner of police (admin) of Pune police.

Mohan Lamsal, owner of Makalu Adventures, which organised the couple’s expedition, told AFP the pair had gone into hiding and failed to respond to the agency’s request for the original digital copy of the photographs. “We… received photos from another Indian climber claiming that his photos were duplicated. While comparing those photos, we became sure that the photos submitted (by the couple) were fake,” Lamsal said.

“(We) need a serious review of the process of certifying climbers… the committee is likely to come up with some suggestions.” Many successful Everest summiteers have gone on to make money or forge careers as motivational speakers and authors on the back of their feat.

A total of 456 people, including more than 250 foreigners, summited Everest during the recently concluded spring season after two consecutive years of deadly disasters that led to almost all attempts being abandoned. Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for the impoverished Himalayan nation and this year’s string of successful summits is expected to boost the industry, which was left reeling after an earthquake last year killed almost 9,000 people nationwide.

Hundreds fled Everest last year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche at base camp killed 18 people. Only one climber reached the top in 2014 after an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides that year.