Nepal civil servants aim for peak performance - Mt Everest

February 24th, 2011 - 4:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Feb 24 (IANS) Despite being targeted by various armed groups who killed 34 officials and despite being slapped by a minister who went unpunished, Nepal’s civil servants are out to prove that their morale is the highest in the world - by conquering Mt Everest.Come March and 15 civil servants, led by Lilamani Poudel, secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Council of Ministers, will head for the 8,848m peak to plant the flag of Nepal as well as an emblem representing Nepal’s nearly 75,000 civil servants.

The Nepal Civil Servants’ Everest Expedition 2011, the first-ever such expedition in the world, includes climbers as diverse as the spokesman of tourism ministry, Laxman Bhattarai, Kumar Giri Kharidar, who works at Narayanhity, the former royal palace now turned into a national museum, and Padam Bahadur Bhandari, a computer operator at the education ministry.

While Bhattarai is the oldest at 54, the youngest is Khimlal Gautam, 27, working with the National Landless Project in Kathmandu.

The 75-day expedition has been allocated an NRS 3 crore budget and additional moral support will be provided by a second team of senior civil servants, including Chief Secretary Madhav Prasad Ghimire, who will accompany the team till the base camp of Mt Everest.

“It is a historic and proud moment for Nepal’s civil servants,” Ghimire said when the expedition was formally announced at Nepal’s tourism board auditorium. “By undertaking this challenging and risky initiative, our civil servants will prove to the world that they are not mere pen pushers but brave men capable of taking snap decisions during moments of life and death.”

The chief secretary’s only regret was that the lone woman selected for the climb, Rukmini Gurung, had to abandon the project due to a heart operation.

“She had completed the initial training at the Yala Peak and we had seen the enthusiasm in her,” Ghimire said. “Had she been on the team too, it would have been truly inclusive.”

Poudel said the expedition was Nepal’s civil servants’ initiative to help the government’s campaign this year to attract 1 million tourists from across the world. It would also help acquire first-hand information about the effects of global warming on mountain tourism, emphasise the campaign to keep the mountain garbage-free and inspire all government staff in Nepal.

Preparations started last year when advertisements were placed in the national media seeking applications from daring civil servants. The shortlisted applicants underwent endurance tests as well as rock-climbing on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley and 16 were chosen finally.

In winter, the 16 scaled the 5,520 metre-high Yala Peak in the Langtang region, a famed trekking destination, for preparatory training.

The civil servants’ Everest expedition comes less than three months after Nepal’s government created a sensation worldwide by holding a meeting of the council of ministers in Kalapathar, an icy region in the lap of Mt Everest.

Even before the team is to leave Kathmandu, the news of their expedition has begun to inspire civil servants in the neighbourhood.

Poudel said both the Indian and Pakistani civil service authorities have contacted Nepal’s tourism ministry, expressing interest in potential expeditions next year.

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