Representatives of the Delhi Government will soon be meeting with a group of engineers in Kerala to discuss the use of robots to clean the sewers in Delhi. If this plan takes off successfully, manual scavenging can be totally eradicated.
Apparently, a couple of hundreds of sewer cleaning machines had been procured earlier this year, but these could not be used in the narrow lanes because of their size. In such restricted-access areas, manual scavenging is relied on, and very often these scavengers are not given any protective gear.
The robots, developed by a Kerala-based company, Genrobotics, will be able to clean manholes too. In fact, they will be able to clean small sewers in about 15 minutes and big ones in about 45 minutes, as they are capable of reaching into a depth of about 20 meters.
The robot, named Bandicoot, is already being procured by municipal bodies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Manual scavengers in these states have been trained to operate these bots.
Weighing 80 kg and standing 1.5-metre tall, Bandicoot is priced at about Rs 4 lakh.
If these robots are widely deployed, the country will be able to save many lives that are otherwise lost while cleaning drains and sewers. In the last three years alone, 88 workers have reportedly lost their lives while cleaning sewers. Of these, the maximum number of manual scavengers (18) died in Delhi. About 1,850 people have died in the last ten years, despite there being a ban on manual scavenging as per the
Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.