Headline July 08, 2017/ ''' WRETCHED *MAFIA* -WATER-RR : B A N G A L O R E '''


 -WATER-RR : B A N G A L O R E '''

IN THE HEADING-   *RR*   stands for nothing other than  Rolls Royce. In the very near future,  Water Shortages     would have the world sizzle, incomprehensible, to mother of all wars.

THAT TERMS   *WATER MAFIA*,  conjures an image straight out of  Mad Max .......gangs of small-time  Immortan Joes      running squadrons of belching tankers, turning a city's  water  on-and-off at will.

When I first started to hear about Bangalore's crisis,  that lurid image was hard to square with the cosmopolitan city that I knew from a lifetime of frequent visits, sighs master researcher Samanth Subramanian.

The prospect of  Bangalore's  imminent collapse from dehydration, and it's apparent anarchic response to the threat, seemed to offer a discomfiting preview of a more general urban future.

As Earth warms, as cities swell, as resources become more scarce and vexing to distribute, the world's urban centers will start to hit up against hard limits.

In the moment, though  -well before the apocalypse   -there was Manjunath. When the tanker had emptied itself, he chuck away his toothpick, climbed back into the cab,   and set off once more  for the bore well.  Huawei's reservoir would swallow many more loads before it was full.

I WAS FIRST TOLD about Thayappa, the water baron of  Iblur, by one of his clients.  Iblur is an area on  Bangalore's  southeastern periphery, about 9 miles from Whitefield,

Fifteen years ago, it was a village and 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 in Bangalore to staff its tech firms.

Thayappa's client was a woman who lived in one of these vast complexes. a thicket of residential towers with tennis courts, genteel ornamental ponds, and  1,500 apartments.

As a member of the  apartments residents association, the woman's duty was to deal with tanker truck owners, and she'd invited me over to hear her tales of battles. But while I sat in a little room off the lobby waiting for her, just outside the glass door, arguing with another association member.

Heads shook furiously. 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'd cut her off. They had no complaints, he said obstinately, none at all.

''I am so sorry,'' the woman said when I called her later that day,.'' He was afraid that if our names appear in a magazine,  the tanker owners will cut off our water. We have no choice, we're dependent on them.''

Thayappa is one of the six Iblur tanker operators who keep the taps running at this apartment complex; the resident rely entirely on them, For convenience, the six operators divvy up the apartments into six rough clusters-

A cluster each   -but there's no doubt that Thayappa is the ringmaster of this cartel, the woman said.  Every time she has tried to haggle with the supplier of her own cluster, he has said ''Thayappa won't agree.''

The woman's cluster alone buys more than  42,000 gallons of water daily -25 tankers worth, all drawn from bore wells within driving distance Iblur. I January 2015 she and the tanker operator had informally settled on a price of $7.50 a tanker-

But six months later the cartel had   -at Thayappa's urging  -unilaterally jacked up the rate to $8.25. Over a year, that works out to an addition of more than $6,800 to the clusters was being forced to pay for a minimum number daily tanker-loads, even though it didn't require that much water.

If the apartments had been hooked up the heavily subsidized civic system, a tanker's worth of water would cost them as little as  70 cents.

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 900 feet or more into the ground, they return only air. In 2015, out of desperation, the woman worked the phones to find suppliers further afield.

One operator agreed to a rate of $6.75 per tanker but then backed out, wary of another cartel's turf. ''He called and said he couldn't take the job. He said.'You didn't tell me your apartment lies in Iblur,' ''

Sometimes the stories are bloodier and grimmer, In 2011, in 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 councilmembers  and local politicians own tanker fleets themselves or allow these legal businesses to operate in return for kickbacks.

In a block of apartments in in Bommanahalli, not far from Iblur, water board officials kept shutting off the piped supply altogether, insisting that their connection had been illegally installed.

Weary of paying nearly $1,250 in monthly tanker dues, the residents, in 2011, decided to dig a new bore well. Just as work commenced, their tanker operator arrived with two colleagues   -''just regular looking guys,'' says Padma Ravi, a filmmaker who lived in the building at the time-

''Except that they had really big machete-type things. They said, 'You can't dig.' '' The excavation had to be finished under police supervision.

Shortly, after I learned his name, I rang Thayappa and asked to meet him. The first time he stood me up. I waited for four hours. ''Stay at the main-intersection and  I'll come and get you,'' he had told me on the phone sounding bored and drowsy.

So I occupied a stone bench, narrates master researcher Samanth Subramanian,   between a fish stall and a tea shop, on a corner where two slender roads crossed.

To pass time, I counted the  Tanker Trucks  that rolled by. On occasion, a tanker's nozzle cap was loose. and water lapped out and slid down the truck's torso.

If the trucks were empty, they gave out hollow rumbles as they headed back through  Iblur for a refill. By the time I gave up, having grown tired of calling Thayappa's number and receiving no response, I had counted 57 tankers.

The Honour and Serving of the  latest  ''Operational Research"  on the State of the World continues. Thank Ya all for reading and for sharing forward and see ya on the following one:

With respectful dedication to all the Technology Companies of  Bangalore and the World. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society and Twitter-!E-WOW!   -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Titans & Tech '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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