New Delhi: For 39-year-old Gabar Singh manual scavenging is a means to earn bread and butter for his family. The meagre amount he gets for the demeaning job- cleaning septic tanks, sewers and gutters, involves risk of his life. Despite being an illegal activity, since 1993, over 50,000 people in India are employed in manual scavenging, according to a survey by Ministry of Social Justice. To abolish manual scavenging in the temple town of Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, Kumbakonam Municipality has decided to deploy ‘Bandicoot’, a pneumatic semi-robotic device developed by GenRobotics Innovations Pvt Ltd, a start-up founded in 2017.
Indian Oil Corporation as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gifted ‘Bandicoot’ to Kumbakonam Municipality. The reason behind providing ‘Bandicoot’ to Kumbakonam Municipality is, there are around 5,000 manholes in Kumbakonam Municipality which require regular cleaning. The Municipality has been cleaning 400-500 sewer manholes a month using mechanical arms. The entire process is not only tedious but demands manual interference too.
Talking to NDTV about how Bandicoot will work, Arun George, co-founder of GenRobotics Innovations Pvt Ltd, says,
From the second week of August, the training process will begin. For a month, sewer workers will be trained to use Bandicoot.
Explaining how Bandicoot will clean sewers and manhole in 20 minutes, Arun says,
Bandicoot has two units – first, the stationary unit that has the control unit requires user interface, second, robot unit that goes inside the manhole. The spider like arms can enter deep into the manholes irrespective of its width and depth. The robot with four limbs collects the waste from the bottom of the sewage lines, remove clogs, and position itself with a jet pressurised with water to clean the pipes. Once scooped, the waste is dumped into a bucket attached to it. The robotic unit which mimics all the man activities has waterproof night vision cameras, advanced technology, sensors and other control panels.
Designed to clean the filth and other liquid waste clogged in manholes and reduce number of deaths related to manual scavenging, costing Rs. 15-17 lakh, ‘Bandicoot’ was first introduced in Kerala in February 2018. For Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu deployed it for the first time on July 21. By the end of August, Bandicoot will be making its debut in Andhra Pradesh and by the year end, the GenRobotics team plans to spread their wings across India.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.