In a bizarre incident from Chhattisgarh, a government official has been accused of getting 21 lakh litres of water drained from a reservoir to recover his expensive phone that had fallen into it. He was quick to clarify, though, saying the water was “unusable” and he got prior verbal permission from the local Sub Divisional Officer.
Rajesh Vishwas, a food officer in Koilibeda block of Kanker district, was enjoying his holiday at the Kherkatta Dam when he accidentally dropped his smartphone worth Rs 1 lakh in the overflow area with 15 feet deep water, after which locals dived in to try to locate it. When the physical extraction effort failed, the officer got two 30hp diesel pumps running continuously for three days and emptied out 21 lakh litres of water, enough to irrigate 1,500 acres of farmland, to get his phone out.
The pumps reportedly started draining water on Monday evening and continued to run till Thursday. An official from the irrigation and water resource department reached the spot after a complaint and got it stopped. However, water till six feet deep, which is around 21 lakh litres, had already been pumped out. The area has over 10 feet-deep water even during summers, and animals often drink from it.
Rajesh Vishwas said his phone slipped out of his hand while taking a selfie, and he had to get it back as the device had official departmental data. Divers tried to locate it but couldn’t as the surface was rocky, he said, adding that an official from the water resources department told him the water isn’t used for anything, which is why he got some of it drained.
“I went to the dam on Sunday with a few friends to take a bath there on my off day. My phone slipped into the overflow tankers, whose water is not usable. It was 10 feet deep. Locals tried to find it but failed. They told me they can surely find it if the water was two-three feet shallower. I called the SDO 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. That’s why I got help from locals to drain around three feet of water and got my phone back,” Mr Vishwas said.
The water resources department official later told local journalists that he had given verbal permission to drain water up to five feet, but a lot more was taken out.
The phone isn’t working after three days in deep water.
Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and BJP leader Raman Singh slammed the Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government, saying officials are treating the region as their ancestral property under the “dictatorial” state government.
People are dependent on water tankers in the extreme heat, and an official drains out 21 lakh litres of water, he said.
On being questioned by journalists, state Cabinet Minister Amarajeet Bhagat said he wasn’t aware of the incident. “I will surely take note of the incident and will take appropriate action according to facts,” he said.