• Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Human Interest

In India’s Chhattisgarh, government official suspended for drying up reservoir to fish out smartphone

The official, a food officer, claimed he took verbal approval from his superior after his phone slipped out of his hand and fell into the dam while taking a selfie.

Representational Image (iStock)

By: Shubham Ghosh

Bizarre stories related to ‘babudom’ (rule of ‘babus’ or obstinate administrative officials) in India are not new but what a government official recently did in the central state of Chhattisgarh has shocked even members of the country’s bureaucracy.

Rajesh Vishwas, a food officer from the state’s Kanker district, reportedly removed 21 lakh (2.1 millon) litres of water from a reservoir after his expensive smartphone fell into it. According to him, he had verbal approval from his superior to carry out the bizarre act when many parts of India are in urgent need of water in hot summer.

He was suspended.

It was reported that the office of superintendent engineer ordered that the cost for water wasted in the act should be deducted from the salary of sub-divisional officer (SDO) (water resources department) R Dhivar who allegedly gave permission to VishwasBusiness Today reported.

The incident happened when Vishwas had gone to spend time at Chhattisgarh’s Kharketta Dam and the phone, costing around Rs 1 lakh (£980), accidentally fell into the reservoir while he was taking a selfie.

Local residents came to assist the official to get his phone back from the 15-feet deep reservoir. But they failed because of the reservoir’s rocky surface, reports said.

Vishwas then contacted the irrigation department and spoke over ways to retrieve the phone.

Reports said that he then used two powerful diesel engines to pump out water and they ran for three days to remove massive amount of water that can be used to irrigate 1,500 acres of agricultural land. The area has a water level of more than 10 feet, even during summer.

An official of the irrigation and water resource department reached the spot on receiving a complaint to investigate. The operation was then stopped but by then enough water had been wasted.

Vishwas defended his act saying his phone contained official departmental data and it needed to be recovered. He also claimed that a water resources department official gave him permission to drain the water.

A show-cause notice served to the SDO said the food inspector had sought for a verbal approval from him for the purpose but giving verbal approval to release water without receiving prior permission from top officials is misbehaviour, according to the report, Business Today reported.

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