Indian Official Suspended after He Drains Reservoir to Retrieve Phone He Dropped While Taking Selfie

Indian villagers collect water for drinking from a well running dry at Padal village of the district of Samba on June 2, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)
Indian villagers collect water for drinking from a well running dry at Padal village of the district of Samba on June 2, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Indian Official Suspended after He Drains Reservoir to Retrieve Phone He Dropped While Taking Selfie

Indian villagers collect water for drinking from a well running dry at Padal village of the district of Samba on June 2, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)
Indian villagers collect water for drinking from a well running dry at Padal village of the district of Samba on June 2, 2019. (AFP/Getty Images)

A government official in India has been suspended from his job after he ordered a water reservoir to be drained so he could retrieve his smartphone, which he had dropped while taking a selfie.

Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas dropped his Samsung smartphone in Kherkatta dam in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh last week, The Times of India newspaper reported.

Vishwas first asked local divers to jump into the reservoir to find the device, claiming it contained sensitive government data. But after the initial efforts to retrieve his smartphone failed, he asked for the reservoir to be emptied using diesel pumps.

Over the next three days, more than 2 million liters of water were pumped out from the reservoir, which is enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres of land during India’s scorching summer, local media reported.

In videos that went viral on social media, Vishwas is seen sitting under a red umbrella as diesel pumps run to drain water from the reservoir.

Vishwas told local media the water in the reservoir was unusable for irrigation and that he had received permission from a senior official to drain it.

The smartphone was eventually retrieved but wouldn’t even start because it was waterlogged.

Authorities later suspended Vishwas after he was widely criticized for wasting water resources.

India is one of the most water-stressed countries and extreme temperatures had led to severe water scarcity, causing crop losses, forest fires and cuts to power.



India’s Monsoon Rains a Fifth Below Normal So Far

Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
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India’s Monsoon Rains a Fifth Below Normal So Far

Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)
Indian commuters use umbrellas during a hot afternoon in Kolkata, India, 14 June 2024. (EPA)

India's monsoon has delivered a fifth less rain than normal so far this season, the weather department said on Monday, in a worrying sign for the vital agricultural sector.

Summer rains, critical to economic growth in Asia's third-largest economy, usually begin in the south around June 1 before spreading nationwide by July 8, allowing farmers to plant crops such as rice, cotton, soybeans, and sugarcane.

India has received 20% less rainfall than normal since June 1, according to data compiled by the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD), with almost all regions except for a few southern states seeing shortfalls and some northwestern states experiencing heat waves.

The rain shortfall in soybean, cotton, sugarcane, and pulses-growing central India has risen to 29%, while the paddy-growing southern region received 17% more rainfall than normal due to the early onset of the monsoon, according to the data.

The northeast has received 20% less rainfall than normal so far, and the northwest some 68% less.

The lifeblood of the nearly $3.5-trillion economy, the monsoon brings nearly 70% of the rain India needs to water farms and refill reservoirs and aquifers.

In the absence of irrigation, nearly half the farmland in the world's second-biggest producer of rice, wheat and sugar depends on the annual rains that usually run until September.

"The monsoon's progress is stalled. It has weakened. But when it revives and becomes active, it can erase the rain deficit in a short burst," an IMD official told Reuters.

The official sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Heat wave conditions are likely to prevail in northern states for a few more days, but temperatures could start coming down from the weekend, the official added.

The maximum temperature in India's northern states is ranging between 42 and 47.6 degrees Celsius (107.6 to 117.7 degrees Fahrenheit), about 4-9 C above normal, the IMD data showed.