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Chhattisgarh: India Official Fined $640 for Draining Dam to Find Phone

An Indian official who made headlines after he drained a dam to retrieve his phone has been fined by the government.

Rajesh Vishwas has been ordered to pay 53,092 rupees ($642; £519) for pumping out millions of litres of water without seeking permission from authorities.

He had dropped the device while taking a selfie and claimed it needed retrieving as it contained sensitive government data.

But he has been accused of misusing his position.

The food inspector dropped his Samsung phone, worth about 100,000 rupees, into Kherkatta Dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh last week.

After local divers couldn’t find the phone, he paid for a diesel pump to be brought in, Mr Vishwas said in a video statement quoted in the media. The pump ran for several days, emptying out thousands of litres of water, but by the time the phone was found, it was too waterlogged to work.

At the time, Mr Vishwas had told the media that he had verbal permission from an official to drain “some water into a nearby canal”, adding that the official said it “would in fact benefit the farmers who would have more water”.

But the authorities suspended Mr Vishwas from his post over the incident. And a few days back, the state irrigation department sent him a letter penalising him for his actions. The BBC has seen a copy of the letter.

It stated that Mr Vishwas had wasted 4.1 million litres of water (880,000 gallons) for his “personal interest” and that he had to pay for the water as well as a penalty of 10,000 rupees for “evacuating water without permission”.

It added that his action was “illegal” and “punishable under Chhattisgarh’s Irrigation Act”.

When first reported, the incident had triggered outrage in the country. Many politicians criticised the official’s actions and said that the water could have been put to better use in a country where several regions face water shortages, especially in the scorching summer months.

Source : BBC