A government official in central India has been suspended from his job after he ordered a water reservoir to be drained to retrieve his smartphone, which he had dropped while taking a selfie.
Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped his smartphone in Kherkatta Dam in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh state last week, The Times of India newspaper reported.
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Vishwas first asked local divers to jump into the reservoir to find the device, claiming it contained sensitive government data. But after the initial efforts to retrieve his phone failed, he asked for the reservoir to be emptied using diesel pumps.
Over the next three days, more than 2 million litres of water was pumped out from the reservoir, which was enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of land during India’s scorching summer, local media reported.
In videos that went viral on social media, Vishwas is seen sitting under a red umbrella as diesel pumps run to drain water from the reservoir.
Vishwas told local media the water in the reservoir was unusable for irrigation and that he had received permission from a senior official to drain it.
“Officials of irrigation department told me water was not being used by farmers and I could empty it by 3 feet [about 1 metre], so I got the water drained into a canal and made it usable,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
The phone was eventually retrieved but it would not even start because it was waterlogged.
Authorities later suspended Vishwas after he was widely criticised for wasting water resources. India is one of the most water-stressed countries and extreme temperatures lead to severe water scarcity, causing crop losses, forest fires and cuts to power.
“He pumped out water without seeking a formal permission. This is unacceptable,” top district official Priyanka Shukla told local media.
Authorities have also launched inquiries against officials who allowed Vishwas’s orders to be carried out.