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Indian official empties dam to retrieve lost phone

The Kherkatta Reservoir in Chhattisgarh, India

An Indian government official has been suspended after ordering a tank to be emptied to retrieve his phone.

It took three days to pump millions of liters of water out of the dam, after Rajesh Vishwas dropped the device while taking a selfie.

At the time it was found, the phone was too waterlogged to work.

Mr Vishwas claimed it contained sensitive government data and needed to be recovered, but he was accused of abusing his position.

The food inspector dropped his Samsung phone, worth around $1,200 (100,000 rupees), in the Kherkatta Dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday.

After local divers failed to find him, he paid to have a diesel pump brought in, Mr Vishwas said in a video statement quoted by Indian media.

He said he had received verbal permission from an official to drain “some water into a nearby canal”, adding that the official said it would “actually benefit the farmers who would have more water “.

The pump ran for several days, emptying some two million liters (440,000 gallons) of water – apparently enough to irrigate 6 km2 (600 hectares) of farmland.

His mission was interrupted when another official, from the water resources department, arrived following a complaint.

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

Mr Vishwas denied abusing his position and said the water he drained came from the overflow section of the dam and ‘was not usable’.

But his actions have drawn criticism from politicians, with the national vice chairman of the state’s opposition BJP party tweeting: “When people depend on water tankers for water installation during hot summers, the officer emptied 41 lakh liters which could have been used for irrigation purpose for 1,500 acres of land.”


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