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India official fined after draining reservoir to recover phone

Dam it all to hell

Picture the scene. You're on holiday and intend to go for a swim in a nearby reservoir. You pull out your phone for a selfie to make sure everyone knows you're having a lovely time, but you fumble the handset and it falls into the water.

Irritating, embarrassing, and it might even cause you some serious logistical difficulties. But it's not the end of the world, is it? Most of us would be able to move on and enjoy our holiday one way or another.

Not so for Rajesh Vishwas, an Indian government food inspector, who accidentally dropped his phone into the reservoir created by Kherkatta Dam in the state of Chhattisgarh. His scenario essentially mirrors that outlined above except for one minor detail – he decided he would need to drain the reservoir to get his tech back.

Landfill Androids are all the rage in India – cheap, replaceable – but unfortunately the price tag on Vishwas's Samsung was reported to be around $1,200. He really, really wanted it back.

According to local media, others were happy to get into the water in an effort to retrieve the phone for Vishwas, but with the depth over 10ft they came up empty handed.

More extreme measures would be needed. He paid for a diesel pump to be brought over, claiming he had verbal permission from another official to drain "some water into a nearby canal" who said it could be beneficial to nearby "farmers who would have more water."

Pump in place, it ran for several days and removed millions of liters of water – said to be enough to irrigate six square kilometers of farmland. The rescue was only stopped when someone from the water resource department came to investigate the operation.

It quite understandably caused a scandal in India, where several regions face water shortages as summer heats up. Vishwas was accused of abusing his government position and was suspended pending an inquiry. "Water is an essential resource and it cannot be wasted like this," Priyanka Shukla, a Kanker district official, told The National newspaper.

His phone fell into "overflow tankers, whose water is not usable," Vishwas argued, obviously grasping for excuses. He also claimed the phone had "sensitive government data" stored on it.

But yesterday the BBC reported that he had been fined 10,000 rupees ($640) and would also have to cover the costs for "evacuating water without permission," wasting 4.1 million liters (880,000 gallons) for his "personal interest."

The state irrigation department deemed his actions "illegal" and "punishable under Chhattisgarh's Irrigation Act."

"But what about the phone?" we hear you cry. The Samsung was indeed recovered during the process, but was found to be "too waterlogged to work."

It is unclear whether Vishwas tried sticking it in some rice. ®

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