Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bandarpunch Under Arrest!

A few days into our expedition, we found out by satellite phone that there was a warrant out for Kutty's arrest by the Forest Dept. Somehow, the journalists figured out that we did not pay the peak fees to summit Bandarpunch, which is an understandably large offense. Of course, they didn't check their facts to find out that we were exempt from such fees since we were taking a course through NIM, a government-run institution. So, what did they do? Published it in both Hindi and English papers throughout the area.

Although slightly alarming, we were sure that the confusion would be cleared up without much fuss.  However, after summiting we learned that not only was the issue unresolved, but also that two members of our group who had left early had been detained for questioning.

Two classic examples of India's ineffective police force:
1. The officials who detained my friends for questioning didn't have their own means of transportation. (From our later run-in with the forest department, I'm guessing the officials were just sitting on the trail near the town of Suki and waiting until the trekkers walked by.) Not having transportation is inconvenient when the goal is to bring the detainees to a town 25-minutes away.  The solution? They used common sense and squeezed into my friends' vehicle and directed the driver where to go. Although I support carpooling, I think they should at least have chipped in for gas money.

2. According to my friends, the forest department was ready to arrest the couple. The hitch: They knew they could put the husband in jail, but they couldn't decide what to do with the wife besides put her up in a hotel (even though she was equally "guilty"). The solution: Too much confusion; they released them both.

Here's one of the many ridiculous articles floating around. There are a lot of inaccurate facts. I particularly like how the police and forest department "swung into action" (more accurately, sat around and bummed transportation).

The Pioneer
Forest dept, police issue notice to climbing institute
June 22, 2011   11:38:59 PM


The Uttarakhand Forest Department has sent a team to arrest a group of adventurers, including foreigners employed as faculty in Woodstock School, Mussoorie, after the group went on an expedition to the base camp of the 6,316 metre high Bandarpunch peak in Uttarkashi district without completing mandatory official procedure.

Both the police and the forest department have issued notices to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering from where this group had gone towards Bandarpunch base camp. The group of 18 foreigners, all faculty members of Woodstock School, had gone to NIM to take a special course in mountaineering as part of which they had gone to the base camp of Bandarpunch peak without filling a mandatory form or receiving the permission of the State forest department.

According to information provided by official sources, a group of faculty members from Woodstock School including foreigners from the US, UK and Korea among other nations had gone to NIM to attend a special mountaineering course. The group said to comprise 18 faculty members, four trainers, four guides and 55 porters left for the Bandarpunch base camp a few days ago.

The group also spent a night at the Army depot at Suki. Following reports of this activity published in local newspapers, the police and forest department swung into action. According to the Uttarakhand Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Srikant Chandola, a department team has left for the base camp and is expected to reach the site by Thursday. The trekkers will be arrested and brought back to Uttarkashi, because they had not taken permission for visiting the base camp.

While NIM officials state that the passports and other documents of the foreigners have been deposited with the institute, police officers said the foreigners violated regulation by travelling to the base camp without filling Form C. The forest department team is expected to bring the group back to Uttarkashi within a couple of days.


MussoorieSteve said...

wow this newspaper article and writer are idiots!!!:)

Nicole Suzanne Farley said...

Oh my word Nan...we're laying in bed laughing pretty hard right now. HA! Any other backlash, or are the newspapers working on their badly worded retractions?

Bill K. said...

Somebody forgot "bakshish" for the first line of beauracracy...that's where all the fuss probably originated.