39 deaths were recorded in a period of 100 days in 2017. Cause of death – manual scavenging.
Despite the ongoing heated debates about the need to eliminate manual scavenging and adopt mechanised methods over the years, not much of what was written on paper has been translated into action.
As a result, the working conditions of sanitary workers remains unchanged across the country.
Often a derogatory practice confined to people belonging to the most backward castes, manual scavenging provides no precautionary or safety measures for its workers and poses health hazards that outweigh the meagre wages these workers get.
Despite passing laws like the Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993 (which was revised two decades later in 2013), manual scavenging continues to dig its claws into the social ecosystem of different parts of India.
But Kerala has decided to put an end to the inhuman practice for good. Soon, robots will be seen replacing humans in cleaning sewers in Kerala.
Developed by Genrobotics, Bandicoot is a low-cost robot with four limbs that comes with a bucket attached to a spider web-like extension. This robot will make its way into a manhole, scoop out waste and collect it in a bucket. It comes with a screen, a camera, WiFi and Bluetooth.
The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) and Kerala Startup Mission(KSUM) have signed a MoU on Thursday for transfer of technology and products, to use the robots, reported The Times of India.
The MoU was signed between Kerala Water Innovation Zone at the chief minister’s office, the report said.
The Bandicoots will start their operations by cleaning sewer holes in Thiruvananthapuram in March during the Attukal Pongala festival.
Genrobotics’ project, funded by KSUM, through its innovation aims to put an end to manual scavenging.