Indian official empties reservoir to search for lost mobile phone

Rajesh Vishwas misplaced handset while taking selfie, then ran two diesel pumps for four days to drain two million litres of water

A food officer in eastern Chhattisgarh, India, allegedly drained about two million litres of water from a reservoir to find his mobile phone. Photo: Kanker District Administration
Powered by automated translation

A government official in India’s eastern Chhattisgarh state has been suspended after he drained about two million litres of water from a reservoir to recover his lost mobile phone.

Rajesh Vishwas, a food officer in Kanker district, was holidaying near the dam and trying to take a selfie when his phone – worth 100,000 rupees ($1,200) – fell into the 4.5m-deep reservoir.

He had help from divers to search for the phone but after their efforts failed, he used two 30 horsepower diesel pumps running continuously for four days to empty the reservoir.

The water wasted was enough to irrigate more than 600 hectares of farmland.

The reservoir is used by animals during the summer.

Mr Vishwas was suspended by the district administration after an official from the irrigation and water resource department reached the spot and forced them to stop.

“He has been suspended until an inquiry. Water is an essential resource and it cannot be wasted like this. I have taken strict action,” Priyanka Shukla, district collector, told The National.

Mr Vishawas told local media that he had gone to the dam on Sunday with a few friends to swim when his phone slipped into the overflow tanks.

“Locals tried to find it but failed. They told me they can surely find it if the water was two-three feet shallower,” Mr Vishwas said, adding that he had verbal permission from an official for pumping out the water.

“I called the sub-divisional officer and 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," he said.

But Ms Shukla said that the department officials had refused to give permission.

“I am told that no such permission was given yet I have sent a show cause notice because if the water was being taken out for the last three days, the department should have known,” she said.

While the mobile phone was eventually retrieved, it was broken after languishing in deep water for three days.

Updated: May 26, 2023, 1:18 PM