A government official in central India has been suspended after he ordered the draining of more than 2 million liters (528,000 gallons) of water from a reservoir to retrieve a smartphone he dropped while snapping a selfie, according to official announcements and local media.
Food inspector Rajesh Vishwas was on vacation near the Kherkatta dam in India's central state of Chhattisgarh when he dropped his Samsung phone into the reservoir May 21, The Indian Express newspaper reported.
He was suspended for draining "water from Paralkot reservoir located in Pakhanjur of Kanker,” according to Chhattisgarh's public relations office.
“He has been suspended by Collector Dr. Priyanka Shukla with immediate effect due to his act contrary to the provisions of the Civil Services Rules, 1966.”
The water — enough to irrigate at least 1,500 acres of land during India’s scorching summer — was drained over three days starting May 22, according to former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh.
Vishwas defended himself in a video posted to the Indian Express website and said the issue had been "exaggerated."
"When I took it out, I took the water and put it back in the reservoir,"
Vishwas needed his phone back because it contained official departmental data, according to the Indian television network NDTV.
He also said that he had received “oral permission” from R.C. Dhivar, a local Water Resources Department official, to drain 3 or 4 feet of water, he told the network.
"Permission to empty the water up to 5 feet was given orally," Dhivar told the Indian network ETV, "but they had emptied the water up to 10 feet."
NBC reached out to Chhattisgarh's Controller Food and Drugs Administration for comment, but did not receive a response.
The phone was eventually retrieved, but after three days in deep water, it was rendered unusable, according to the National News.
Vishwas was widely criticized on social media for wasting water resources, especially as India grapples with climate change and heat waves.
Singh, the former state chief minister, voiced his concerns on Twitter: "Today in the scorching heat people are dependent on tankers, there is no arrangement for even drinking water," he wrote.
"Under the dictatorship by Dau (rich person) officials have considered the state as their own ancestral fiefdom," he wrote.