An Indian government official was reportedly suspended on Friday after he allegedly ordered to drain a reservoir to retrieve his mobile phone, which he accidentally dropped while taking a selfie at the site.
Food officer Rajesh Vishwas was having a picnic at the Kherkatta Paralkot reservoir in Chhattisgarh state on May 21 when his Samsung S23 phone fell into the water, India Today reported.
Vishwas decided to drain the reservoir after local divers failed to find his phone. According to the report, about two million liters of water were emptied out of the dam over three days, which is enough to irrigate 600 hectares of farmland.
“I tried very little to find the phone. The villagers, however, were keen on finding the phone. When they were unable to find the phone, they advised that the water could be pumped out,” he told India Today.
“In the entire search, only Rs 7,000-8,000 [around $85 and $97] was spent. I asked for pipes from the villagers and got the water poured into the canal instead of letting the water flow out. I have not misused my position,” Vishwas added.
Vishwas claimed that he received verbal permission from a sub-divisional officer (SDO) of the Water Resources Department to proceed with the drainage.
However, the phone was already damaged by the time they pulled it out from the water.
SDO RK Dhivar, who allegedly granted Vishwas verbal permission, has been ordered by the Office of Superintendent Engineer to bear the cost of the wasted water, which will be deducted from his salary.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Congress MLA Anoop Nag said that Vishwas’s move to empty the entire dam for his own purpose was “unacceptable,” even though the phone may contain important data.
“After he lost his phone, he emptied the whole dam to find it. This area has a lot of farmers, though the phone [and] its data are important, causing a loss of the public’s water is unacceptable,” he told ANI News.
Nag said that an investigation will be conducted regarding the incident. He urged the concerned collector to take “strict action” against Vishwas if he was found guilty, noting that “many people” were deployed in the search for the phone.