LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Police say armed bandits are threatening villagers with death unless they deliver 35 buckets of water each day in northern India.

So far, 28 villages have been taking turns to deliver what the bandits are calling a “water tax,” but officer Suresh Kumar Singh in the city of Banda says persistent drought and poor supply lines have made the deliveries difficult.

The rugged Bundelkhand region on the southern border of Uttar Pradesh state has been starved for rain since 2007, with the yearly monsoon bringing only half the usual number of 52 rainy days each year.

Local charity worker Bagwat Prasad says the villagers, afraid of the bandits, began hauling water into the forests and mountain areas on Wednesday.

Subscribe to Asian Correspondent

Receive our weekly round-up of the most important stories in Asia

We will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.