In the outskirts of the city, particularly in Bangalore East, where the water crisis is at its worst, political power appears to flow from the barrel of a water tanker. Indeed, having large cut-outs of the local leader on the back of tankers has become a way to mark political turf; more the numbers of poster-plastered and painted tankers, the greater the influence of the local politician.

While these tankers give the water-starved population the impression that the local leader is responsible for supplying water, the facts on the ground suggest otherwise.

The entire exercise is the result of a clandestine understanding between politicians and the tanker owners, reveals the driver of one such vehicle. “In exchange for putting up the poster, we can draw around 10 to 15 tanker-loads of water from the [BWSSB] pumping station for free. Some leaders also ask us to distribute a few loads of water for free every week in their constituency,” he says.

Evidently, the caper is also a profitable venture for the tanker owners. Of the 15 loads Raveesh (name changed) draws every week from a BWWSB overhead tank, he only has to give five loads for free at a slum in Kaggadasapura. “The rest we get to sell in the open market,” he says.

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