India official suspended after draining reservoir to retrieve lost phone

A government official in India has been suspended after he ordered an entire reservoir be drained so he could retrieve his phone that he had dropped in the water while snapping a selfie.

Rajesh Vishwas, a food inspector, dropped his $1,200 Samsung phone into Kherkatta Dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday, according to the BBC.

Vishwas claimed that the phone held sensitive government information and deployed local divers to help find it, Indian news outlets reported.

When the divers failed to find the phone, he paid for a diesel pump to be brought in to remove the water, Vishwas is quoted as saying to local media.

The food inspector claimed he had verbal permission from an official to drain “some water into a nearby canal.” He said that he was told the move “would in fact benefit the farmers who would have more water”.

For three days, the pumps ran and emptied 440,000 gallons of water — which is reportedly enough to irrigate nearly 1500 acres of farmland.

By the time the phone was finally found, it was not even working.

Vishwas was caught after a water resource official responded to a complaint. He was subsequently suspended from his government position.

“He has been suspended until an inquiry. Water is an essential resource and it cannot be wasted like this,” Priyanka Shukla, a Kanker district official, told The National newspaper.

Vishwas denied misusing his position. The water he drained, he said, was from the overflow section of the dam and “not in usable condition”.

The officials’ actions have sparked outrage among Indian politicians.

“When people are depending upon tankers for water facility in scorching summers, the officer has drained 41 lakh litres which could have been used for irrigation purpose for 1,500 acres of land,” tweeted opposition BJP party’s national vice-president.