Mentally ill foreigners causing Nepal’s Tourist Police considerable mental stress
At Gwarko’s KIST hospital, a Mexican woman has been receiving medical care for the past two months. Erika (last name withheld ) came to Nepal through India seven months ago on a tourist visa, but she has no plans to go home. According to Tourist Police, Erika has been in hospital for two months, and doctors say she may have developed some kind of ‘mental illness’. “During the period she’s been here, no one has come looking for her. The authorities concerned have not done anything to deport her,” a police official said. She came to the notice of police after she reportedly fought with owners of restaurants where she would eat, but not pay for her meal. “She took off her clothes in public one day, and that was when we took her to the hospital,” the official said. The Mexican woman is not the only ‘tourist’ who was found to be in ‘poor mental health’. There are many such tourists in town, who have become a source of nuisance to police. Officials at the Tourist Police Headquarters in Bhrikuti Mandap have an unusual responsibility. On one hand, they need to take action against illegal activities. On the other, they need to make sure that visitors do not come into harm’s way.
Tourist Police started its operation with seven personnel in 1978. Over the years, the department has increased its presence covering almost all tourist destinations like Basantapur, Thamel, Pashupati, Patan and Bhaktapur in the valley. It also has bases in areas outside the valley like Lukla, Kakadbhitta, Dhanusa, Syabrubesi, Ghandruk, Manang, Lumbini and Jomsom.
The entire force of the tourist police consists of 190 personnel even though the organisation requires 227 personnel. Officials say while some of the cases seem amusing, others involve threat to life and property. There are also those who come to Nepal on a tourist visa and try to stay here as jogis. Some hardly talk while there are others who carry weapons like knives. Tourist Police works in coordination with regular personnel. Whenever a tourist lodges a complaint with the local police, tourist police gets a notification through the local beats. “There are a few tourists who have become a headache for us,” says Tulsa Khatiwada, inspector of tourist police. “However, it’s our job to make the tourists feel comfortable while they are in Nepal.” Last year, tourists visiting Nepal filed a total of 397 complaints out of which only 11 cases have been investigated. Out of the 397 cases, seven were of serious nature, and have been forwarded to Nepal Police for further investigation. Other cases are mostly based on petty crime like theft and swindling. Meanwhile, Erika is still at the hospital, and what will happen to her looks uncertain. “The Mexican Consular and the Mexican Embassy in India have been informed about Erika, but we haven’t received any word from them,” says Khatiwada.