A government official in Chhattisgarh was suspended on Friday after he had 21 lakh litres water drained from a reservoir to recover his phone, NDTV reported.

Rajesh Vishwas, a food inspector in Koilibeda block of the North Baster Kanker district, claimed that the water was unusable and that he got “verbal permission” from his senior.

The incident took place on Sunday when Vishwas was on a vacation at the Kherkatta Dam. The officer said that he had initially called local divers to try and find his phone but then bought two diesel pumps to drain out the water, NDTV reported.

The pumps ran continuously for four days and emptied out 21 lakh litres of water – enough to irrigate 1,500 acres of farmland.

“Locals told me they can surely find it if the water was two-three feet shallower,” Vishwas said, according to NDTV. “I called the SDO [Sub Divisional Officer] and requested him to allow me to drain some water into the nearby canal if there was no problem in doing so. He said it was not an issue if three-four feet deep water was drained, and would in fact benefit the farmers who would have more water.”

Vishwas added that he had to retrieve the phone as it had official departmental data stored in it.

On his part, Ram Lal Dhivar, the deputy officer of the Water Resources Department, said that verbal permission had been granted to drain the water up to a depth of five feet. But, he added, that the level has been reduced by more than 10 feet, according to India Today.

On Friday, Kanker District Collector Priyank Shukla said that Vishwas had not sought permission from any competent officer to drain the water, NDTV reported.

“Misusing his position, he [Vishwas] wasted lakhs of litres of water during the season of intense heat,” Shukla said. “This is an unacceptable behaviour that cannot be condoned.”