Water Tanker - Commercial Vehicles in Karnataka - hg00880.info
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There are between 1, and 3, of these trucks, according to varying estimates, hauling tens of millions of gallons per day through Bengaluru. In the moment, though — well before the apocalypse — there was Manjunath. When his tanker had emptied itself, he chucked away his toothpick, climbed back into the cab and set off once more for the bore well.
I was first told about Thayappa, the water baron of Iblur, by one of his clients. Fifteen years ago, it was a village; now Iblur is a suburban enclave, full of condominiums with names like Suncity Apartments and Sobha Hibiscus, which sprang up to supply homes to some of the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded into Bengaluru to staff its tech firms.
But while I sat in a little room off the lobby waiting for her, I could see her, just outside the glass door, arguing with another association member.
Bangalore's water mafia explained!
Hands cut through the air. When they joined me, the man — a former local Yahoo employee — insisted that the tanker owners behaved perfectly. Every time the woman started a story, he cut her off.
They had no complaints, he said obstinately, none at all. In an attempt to source its own water, the complex had dug 22 bore wells of its own, but they rarely work; even though they reach feet or more into the ground, they return only air. Inout of desperation, the woman worked the phones to find suppliers further afield. Inin a different neighbourhood, a man identified only as Kabeer had his ribs broken for calling out an alleged boss of the local water mafia.
Some municipal council members and local politicians own tanker fleets themselves or allow these illegal businesses to operate in return for kickbacks. In a block of apartments in Bommanahalli, not far from Iblur, water board officials kept shutting off the piped supply altogether, insisting that their connection had been illegally installed. Shortly after I learned his name, I rang Tha-yappa and asked to meet him.
The first time he stood me up, I waited for four hours. So I occupied a stone bench between a fish stall and a tea shop, on a corner where two slender roads crossed. To pass the time, I counted the tanker trucks that rolled by.
If the trucks were empty, they gave out hollow rumbles as they headed back through Iblur for a refill. Sitting atop a series of ridges, Bengaluru lies more than 3, feet above sea level — an elevation that affords the city month after month of moderate temperatures, nippy evenings and clement afternoons. Hauling water from the nearest major river — the Kaveri, 85kms to the south — is a formidable and inefficient affair.
For generations Bengaluru stood out for its foresight in devising ways to manage its water. Subsequent kings and then the British dug more, so that a census in counted lakes, spread like pock marks across the face of Bengaluru.
As early assteam engines were deployed to pull water from its reservoirs; a decade later, it became the first Indian city to use electric pumps. In the Thirties, the first water meters in India were installed here. When the IT industry exploded, though, the planning seemed to seize up.
Roads and tech parks were permitted to encroach onto lake land; industries dumped chemicals and debris into water bodies.
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The most vivid image associated with Bengaluru today is not of its software engineers arrayed neatly within their cubicles but of its largest lake, Bellandur. The runoff of toxic chemicals into Bellandur is so dire that, periodically, the lake catches fire. Dense clouds of taupe smoke lift off the water and sail towards the condominiums of Iblur or towards the IT offices of Sarjapur Road. Neglect, not surprisingly, gave rise to scarcity — and then collided with the volatility of climate change.
Misra deploys the word mafia easily when talking about the tanker barons. The business bears several of the hallmarks of organised crime, he says: Politicians up and down the ladder, from municipal officials to state legislators, receive payoffs. Obediently, I went back once more, reclaimed my stone bench between the fish stall and the tea shop and waited.
After about 90 minutes, Thayappa drove up on his motorcycle, a silver-grey Royal Enfield Bullet that shone in the sun.
I introduced myself and pointed in the direction of the old village, where he lived. We walked into the shadow of a tarp roof over a coconut stall. The coconut vendor, recognising Thayappa, got up from his own chair, dusted it off and offered it to him. Thayappa, a middle-aged man with a hairline in retreat, wore a lemon-yellow shirt and grey polyester trousers.
He had on glasses with brown photochromic lenses; in the shade, these were caught midway in a muddiness between opacity and clarity.
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He had a mustache, a faint sheen of white stubble on his chin and an aura of cool, taciturn authority, even when he was being flexible with the truth. At one point, Thayappa said he was getting out of the water business altogether and that he now ran just one tanker; then he said his fleet had shrunk from four tankers to two; then he said he owned two small tankers and a larger one.
Back in the day, all this was agricultural land, Thayappa said, his arm describing an expansive arc around him. There was nostalgia in his voice. Then Bengaluru swallowed the village whole. Thayappa was one of the first Iblur entrepreneurs to enter the water tanker business in orwhen the condos around the village, filled with new residents, began to exhaust their wells.
Now there are only five that still work. So Thayappa sends his fleet out farther afield to find water. I recounted the story that the woman in the apartment complex had told me, and I asked if he forced clients to buy a minimum number of tanker loads every day. He did nothing of the sort, he said. I wondered if there were battles over turf, fights over customers. He denied this too. On Instagram, as -zenrainman, he posts photos of water: If buildings across Bengaluru installed rainwater harvesting systems; if the city recycled its wastewater; if it pared back its husk of concrete and revived its lakes so that they could, in turn, recharge the water table, then Bengaluru would have enough to drink, Vishwanath argues.
The mafias blur the boundaries between state and society, formal and informal, and public and private as they strategically try to negotiate between these boundaries. The actions of mafias must be understood beyond the profit and rent seeking behaviours normally associated with private tanker operators.
Rather, social protection, the provision of welfare, electoral lobbying, and the facilitation of unauthorised land sales to lower middle class buyers are all part of the mafias' political activities. Although many mafia strategies are illegible and tend to be portrayed as extortionist or corrupt by mainstream media and urban policy experts, mafia members also deploy surprisingly legible and civilised means to encounter and discipline corrupt or predatory municipal officials at times.
Mafias thus blur state-society and civil society-political society divisions and provide a valuable lens into understanding the variable nature of public authority in the post-colonial city. The mafias are successful because they often control both water and land regimes. For example, since the early s in Bangalore, the deregulation of land has encouraged crony capitalism in the real estate sector, and this has provided ample opportunity for exploitative land deals, often supported by state institutions and the land development mafia.
This has further upheld the authority of the water mafias. We must, therefore, develop a fuller appreciation of how informal land politics intersect with informal water politics if we need to understand the power dynamics that determine access to and exclusion from water.
The varied nature of water delivery and implications for water governance The article argues that the analysis also sheds light on the dominant characterisations of informal water supply as the so-called 'other' private sector, which is described as an independent, entrepreneurial, small-scale private water sector, can be clearly distinguished from the large-scale private or public utility sector. However, a close look at the workings of water mafias reveals that they do not comprise only independent, small-scale entrepreneurs operating outside of the state, but also includes large-scale public and private utility companies, which too operate through the water mafia and mafia-like strategies.
From a policy perspective too, it is thus crucial to avoid compartmentalising water delivery into stand-alone 'sectors' and understand that in fact there are many practices that enliven water delivery across typologies, sectors, and technologies used.