Even though the Parliament enacted a law prohibiting manual scavenging nearly 25 years ago, this patently illegal practice (and a vile form of caste discrimination) continues to thrive in many cities, resulting in many excruciating deaths.
However, on World Toilet Day earlier this week, Sulabh International, a noted social service organisation famous for its work in environmental sanitation, unveiled the purchase of India’s “first sewage cleaning machine” which it hopes will end the practice of manual scavenging.
Developed by Pune-based firm Kam-Avida, this “jet-cum-rodding-cum-mechanical manhole desilting machine” called the “Hope Machine” will cost Rs 43 lakh per piece. According to InUth, this machine “works by injecting high pressure into the tunnels and tanks, and collects the waste with a mechanical bucket operated from ground level”.
The report goes onto state “it can de-choke sewer lines with steel rods that can bend, generates high-resolution images through a remote-controlled inspection camera and uses hydraulics to operate its systems.”
The product also comes with a “gas-detecting device” and protective gear. Speaking to the Times of India, Anupam Sukhija of Kam-Avida said, “Each unit is capable of executing diverse functions, including jetting through a high-pressure pump, desilting using the hydraulics-operated grabber (a hand-like attachment) and rodding using a detachable mini machine that runs on electric power.” Instead of bamboo sticks that manual scavengers use, this rodding unit will now do the job.
Ensuring that these machines can operate along small and narrow lanes, the manufacturers have developed one which is merely six feet in width. Speaking to the national publication, Kam-Avida has initially promised to the offer “a three-day training program” for sanitation workers in Delhi. Reports say one person has died every five days cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country. A black mark that must be erased!
With this machine, the authorities hope to end this vicious practice. The Delhi Jal Board has placed an order for 200 such “Hope Machines,” although red-tape is reportedly delaying the process. However, they have promised to put 80 such machines to work by the end of the year.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)