This robot promises to end manual scavenging

This robot promises to end manual scavenging

A robot being developed by a city-based inventor. PIC COURTESY: Alcheme

Manual scavenging may be against the law, but that has not stopped thousands of impoverished Indians from entering septic tanks and sewers to cleanse them of human excreta in an attempt scrabble together a living.

Now, a robotic invention, being developed by a team of young engineers, could not only help put an end to this antiquated practice but could also save lives in the process.

According to latest figures from the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis, there were 636 sewer deaths in the country from 1993 to 2018, including 68 in Karnataka — which is the third-highest number among states.

The civic workers who often attend to scavenging works are exposed to bacteria and viruses resulting in severe ailments. It is this glaring fact that the developers of HomoSep, a robotic septic tank cleaner, hope to obviate. 

HomoSep, which carries a price tag of Rs 2-3 lakh, is the brainchild of a Bengaluru-based Divanshu Kumar, plus two friends and a professor from IIT Madras. Kumar said it is designed to “homogenise” excreta in septic tanks.

“HomoSep, however, works by mixing the solid faecal waste with liquid waste which collects on top. This ‘homogenised’ waste can then be pumped out, without a scavenger ever having to lower herself or himself into the pit,” Kumar said.

The invention does not intend to put manual scavengers out of work, Divanshu said. "Instead, the controls are simplified for manual scavengers to be reskilled to use the technology," he said. The eight-foot robot, which stands on three legs, with a central motor and shaft leading to a fan-like assembly at the bottom which can be lowered into the pit, carries a common sense appearance to it.

Nevertheless, it sufficiently impressed judges at the recent government-backed National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition, to win Rs 30 lakh investment amount.

Kumar said he has no plans to deploy the robot in Bengaluru, as he has not been approached by municipal bodies.

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