Necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing better sums up the story of 15-year-old Mathura innovator Sikanto Mandal, who invented the Swachhta cart better.
Sikanto, now a Class 12 student, was in the ninth grade in Jai Gurudev Sanstha School (which provides free education to underprivileged children), when he first observed how his batchmates (the boys), struggled to pick up and dump waste, swept by the girls as part of their early morning duties.
While some would slyly sneak their way out of the task, others would pinch their noses in disgust and continue to pick the waste unenthusiastically with their bare hands.
It was at that time that Sikanto came up with the idea of creating a manual waste lifting and dumping device as an innovative alternative to not only help his friends clean up the school premises better, but also make the task at hand something they looked forward to, every day.
And while the student managed to scribble a design of the model he wanted to create on paper, he knew he did not have the funds to execute it.
Born to daily wage labourers who migrated to Mathura from West Bengal 15 years ago, Sikanto’s father works two jobs. One at a book factory and another, driving around the town as a rickshaw driver, to make ends meet. While his ailing mother is at the mercy of the bed in their small rented home in Mathura, his older brother, 17-year-old Shivram, though in his first year BSc on paper, is often seen working long hours at the book factory than attending college to help the family’s finances.
When Sikanto discussed his idea and the problem of funds with his teachers, they encouraged him to apply for the Inspire Awards by the Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. The authorities were impressed by the young innovator’s design, selected his entry and awarded Rs 5,000 to him to build a model.
Spending over a month and a half, Sikanto built his first model out of wood. Scraping together parts of old furniture, discarded bicycle chains and brakes, he created the preliminary model of his mobile garbage collection machine.
The first time they ever tested it, was on their own school ground.
Sikanto realised his model was a raging success when he first exhibited at the district level of the Inspire Awards and won laurels. It wasn’t long enough until he was invited to exhibit his model at the state and national level.
In 2016, Sikanto met the Director and Chief Innovation Officer of National Innovation Foundation, Dr Vipin Kumar – who helped him patent the technology. The young innovator even visited the foundation in Gujarat and spent over 15 days there, where they helped him build a metal prototype and exhibit it to different companies who would want to mass produce it in the future.
The USP of the Swachhta Cart Sikanto is how it is fully manual and easy to carry and operate – unlike other garbage collection devices in the market, which require electricity, battery or fuel for functioning.
“Even the Nagar Palika garbage collection vehicle, requires four sanitation workers with spades to manually pick the waste and dump it in its container. And this use of additional manpower and the risk of picking waste with bare hands or rudimentary tools can be tackled with the Swachhta cart which only requires two people to operate it. Besides, it can pick all kinds of waste.”
The garbage collection cart is equipped with a picker that collects garbage without the need to manually touch it, a gripper and a handle which helps easy dumping of the garbage.
Sikanto has also customised the cart with space for sanitation workers to keep their brooms, a water bottle and any other material they carry or come across on the field.
Sikanto’s model at NIF grabbed the attention of Gujarat-based start-up Sarjan Innovators Pvt Ltd, who got the technology behind it transferred for mass production with patents to commercialise it with a few modifications.
To be priced at Rs 10,500, the Swachhta cart is expected to hit the market soon, with Sikanto getting the royalty for the technology.
In March 2017, Sikanto even exhibited the model at the week-long Festival of Innovation held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
While the young innovator could have never thought that his Swachhta cart would get the recognition, he now hopes it will help him pull his family out of their financial doldrums.
On 24th January, when the state celebrated UP divas, CM Yogi Adityanath met Sikanto and lauded his model. Sikanto is all set to fly to Japan with the other winners of the Inspire awards in May 2018 where the Ministry will be bearing the costs of their travel and stay.
Sikanto dreams of becoming an engineer and innovate many more solution-based machines. Nonetheless, he continues to worry about his family’s financial condition and if they’d be able to help him attain his dream.
When asked about where he sees himself in the next five years if he receives the financial help he requires, the young boy says:
“If you visit the small ancestral land we have back in West Bengal; you’d see a makeshift structure without a solid roof. An old rugged blanket which serves as its ceiling is often blown away by strong wind currents. It is the only place we can call our own home. One day, I will build a pukka house where the dilapidated structure stands. My brother will no longer have to work at the factory. He will complete his BSc and earn his degree, and my parents won’t have to work two jobs to make ends meet.”
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