A government official who ordered a reservoir to be drained just so he could retrieve his $1,200 (£970) smartphone after dropping it while taking a selfie has been suspended.
Indian Official Suspended After Draining Reservoir to Retrieve Phone
A senior Indian government official, who approved a reservoir to be drained so his colleague could find his phone, has been fined more than £500.
Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped his Samsung smartphone in Kherkatta Dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh last week while taking a selfie The Times of India newspaper reported.
He first asked divers to search for the device, claiming it contained sensitive government data, but when their efforts failed, he asked for the reservoir to be emptied using diesel pumps.
Over three days, more than two million litres of water (440,000 gallons) were pumped from the reservoir enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres of land during India's scorching summer, local media reported.
Mr Vishwas told reporters the water was unusable for irrigation and he had received permission from a senior official to drain it.
The waterlogged smartphone would not start when it was found.
Authorities suspended Mr Vishwas after he was widely criticised for wasting water resources.
Priyanka Shukla, a Kanker district official, told The National newspaper: 'He has been suspended until an inquiry. Water is an essential resource and it cannot be wasted like this.'
He was accused of misusing his position and triggered outrage at the scale of wasted water, which is a scarce and valuable resource in India during the hot summer months and was used locally from the reservoir by farmers to irrigate their fields.
The pumping activity was stopped when an official from the irrigation and water resource department arrived at the location.
But he has ben condemned by politicians and the state's opposition party BJP national vice president saying online: 'When people are depending upon tankers for water facility in in scorching summers, the officer has drained 41 lakh litres which could have been used for irrigation purpose for 1,500 acres of land.'
The BBC reported that although Mr Vishwas managed to retrieve his phone, it was found to be unusable.
While Mr Vishwas claimed to have received verbal permission to extract "some water" from the dam, a district official contradicted this statement, stating that he did not possess formal consent to carry out such actions.
“I called the [Sub Divisional Officer] and requested him to allow me to drain some water into the nearby canal if there was no problem in doing so.
“He said it was not an issue if three-four feet deep water was drained, and would in fact benefit the farmers who would have more water.”
Recently, the state irrigation department sent Mr Vishwas a letter, which the BBC has obtained a copy of, penalising him for his actions.
According to the letter, Mr Vishwas was accused of wasting 4.1 million litres (880,000 gallons) of water for his personal interests.
As a result, he was instructed to pay for the water and faced a penalty of 10,000 rupees for "illegally evacuating water without permission."
The letter also highlighted that his actions were deemed illegal and punishable under Chhattisgarh's Irrigation Act.