Let’s say you drop your new smartphone in a warehouse while posing for a selfie at a picnic. Would you consider it lost and buy a replacement, or drain the deposit to get it back?
An Indian civil servant who opted for the latter option was suspended from his post. He also faces the national media glare in a drought-prone country where water is a precious commodity.
The official, Rajesh Vishwas, 32, was on a picnic with friends in central India on May 21 when he dropped his Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in the Paralkot reservoir in Chhattisgarh state, where he lives. The $1,200 device is a new model, and Mr. Vishwas, a government food inspector, apparently decided that he had to get it back and claimed that he had official data from the department, according to NDTVIndian television station.
Initially, some villagers he knew spent two days diving in the reservoir in an attempt to recover the phone. Mr Vishwas told The Indian Express newspaper. Unlucky. So he rented a diesel pump and drained about three feet of water over another two days, by some estimates enough to irrigate 1,500 acres of farmland.
Mr Vishwas later said he had received “oral permission” from RC Dhivar, a local Water Resources Department official, to drain three to four feet of water. Mr Dhivar said doing so would “in fact benefit farmers”, Mr Vishwas said he told NDTV.
Attempts to reach both men for comment on Saturday were unsuccessful. Priyanka Shukla, a senior local official, said in an interview on Saturday that Vishwas had no authority to drain the water.
Whatever the arrangement was, it failed.
When Mr Vishwa got his phone back last week, it was unusable, according to Indian media reports. And after news of his operation made headlines across the country, he was temporarily removed from his position for “misusing his position.”
As for Dhivar, the officials said they had asked him to explain his position on the episode, in writing, within two days. He could eventually face disciplinary action.
The incident drew criticism from some leading pundits and politicians, including Raman Singh, a former chief minister of Chhattisgarh state.
“Today, in the scorching heat, people are dependent on tankers, there are no arrangements even for drinking water,” said Singh, leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which is in opposition in the state. wrote on Twitter on Friday. At the same time, he added, with the water drained in an effort to recover Mr. Vishwas’s phone, “fifteen hundred acres of land could have been irrigated.”
India, which is among the most water-stressed countries in the world, has experienced several major heatwaves and droughts in recent years. They are vivid reminders of how extremely vulnerable the nation is affected by global warming.
Mr Vishwas told The Indian Express that the news about his phone recovery operation had been greatly exaggerated. He also said that the Paralkot reservoir was not used for irrigation.
But Ms Shukla, a district magistrate in the area, said local farmers depended on him to irrigate their fields.
“He will face consequences for draining the water, and this will not be tolerated,” he added.