A Chhattisgarh government employee allegedly drained out 41 lakh litres of water from a weir after his mobile phone fell into it in the state’s Kanker district, an official said on Friday.
The employee was suspended for the colossal waste of water in the peak of summer at Paralkot reservoir last weekend. The incident came to light on Friday, the official said.
Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas, posted in Pakhanjore area of the district, had gone to the reservoir for an outing with his friends on May 21 when his mobile phone fell into a waste weir, a channel that carries away surplus water, while taking a selfie, the official said.
Vishwas allegedly roped in villagers and got diesel pumps to empty the water from the weir till his mobile phone was retrieved on Thursday, he said.
After the matter came to light, Kanker Collector Priyanka Shukla sought a report in this regard, following which the official was suspended, he said.
The collector also issued a show-cause notice to the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of water resources department, RC Dhivar, for allegedly giving verbal permission to drain out water from the weir.
A report sought from the sub-divisional magistrate of Pakhanjore said that 4,104 cubic meters, or 41 lakh litres, of water was emptied from the structure without permission from the authorities to look for the mobile phone, it said.
“Vishwas misused his position to look for his mobile phone and without seeking permission from the competent officer evacuated water to the tune of lakhs of litre in this scorching summer season which is unacceptable. For the aforementioned act, he has been placed under suspension with immediate effect," reads the suspension order.
The show-cause notice issued to Dhivar stated that as per statements of Vishwas in media, the food inspector had sought verbal permission from him for the purpose. Giving verbal permission to release water without seeking permission from senior officials comes under the category of misconduct, it said.
The SDO has been asked to furnish a reply within a day and warned of disciplinary action if he fails, it added.
Collector Shukla said she has also written to the secretary of the water resources department seeking action against SDO Dhivar.
Vishwas told PTI that he had gone to the dam with his friends and his phone, a Samsung Galaxy S23, fell into the weir when he tried to take a selfie.
“The locals present there said that the tank is merely 10 feet deep and the phone can be retrieved. Initially they tried to get it out but failed. They told me that if the water could be emptied by 3-4 feet then they could retrieve the phone. So I spoke to the SDO of the irrigation department who said that since the water is not used by the farmers you can empty it. So I, at my own expense, emptied the water by 3 feet with the help of the local people and then the phone was retrieved on Thursday,” Vishwas claimed.
The unusable water was drained into the canal to reach nearby ponds, he claimed, adding that the water didn't go to waste.
Senior BJP leader and former chief minister Raman Singh hit out at the ruling Congress over the episode and said under the Bhupesh Baghel government, officials have been considering the state like their ancestral property.
He said, “Under the dictatorship of Dau @bhupeshbaghel, officials have been considering the state as their ancestral property. When people are dependent on tankers and there is no arrangement for even drinking water in this scorching summer, officials are pouring about 21 lakh litres of water for their mobile. Through this volume of water one and a half thousand acres of land could have been irrigated”.
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