Now robots to do manual scavenging


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A group of engineering students from Kerala has developed a robot named Bandicoot for manual scavenging which is responsible for several deaths across the country every year. To promote their invention these engineering students have started a start-up called ‘Genrobotics’ and they have already received the patent from Government of India and now seeking for the world patent which will be applicable in 150 counties around the globe.  The Kerala Water Authority which is responsible for sewage related issues in the area has already placed an order of 50 robots.

Manual scavenging has already been abolished officially by a law in India, as it is considered as a dehumanizing practice which is basically a caste- based occupation involving the removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines. In spite of a ban, the dehumanising practice continues in the country. According to an estimate more than 1200 people died from manual scavenging related activities between 2014 and 2016 in the country.

Considering Bandicoot as a tech solution to the social malaise, Genrobotics said, “The technology will go global only after fixing the country’s nagging problem. Robots will not only restricted to sewer problem but can also be used for other under water services.”

Vimal Govind, 24-year-old , a mechanical engineer and CEO of Genrobotics said, “Death of three sewage workers on the outskirts of Bangalore two years ago prompted us to think something out of the box to tackle the problem, which is often being called India’s shame.”

“I worked more than one year in the TCS to earn some money to fund the stage one of the project. We all nine classmates of MES Engineering College in Kuttipuram came around quickly and developed the first prototype in six months. Manufacturing cost of the machine is somewhere between Rs three lakh and Rs five lakh. The machine weighs 80 kg but the main operating part that goes into the hole weighs only 30 kg,” added Rashid K, a software engineer (a team member).

Manufacturing cost of the machine is somewhere between Rs 3lakh and Rs 5 lakh, Rashid said. Their machine weighs 80kg but the main operating part that goes into the hole weighs only 30 kg.

Once installed atop a clogged sewage line, a wire carrying camera goes inside the hole and beams pictures of the problem on the screen atop. After gauging the problem, the robot dismantles itself from the main machine and goes into the hole taking tools such as a shovel or a jet pipe, depending on the magnitude of the problem, and cleans the system. Young scientists claim a robot can manage three workers’ three-hour schedule in 30 minutes.

Keeping manual scavengers in mind, Genrobotics is teaching them, ‘How to operate the machine’, so that they don’t become jobless.

“Even a small boy can operate our system. We will train these workers. It is their product. We are planning to move a proposal under the Prime Minister’s flagship Swachh Bharat scheme to train them,” said Govind, who recently visited Taiwan for a presentation.

Another member of the team, Jaleesh said, “Our guiding spirit is our former President A P J Abdul Kalam. He always used to say dream, dream. The young India is committed to fulfil his dream of becoming a fully developed nation sans hunger and strife.”

“The noble product shows social commitment of these youngsters. Many firms including the BPCL promised help to take their innovation to the next stage,” said state IT Secretary M Sivasankar.

In an international conference conducted recently by the American Society of Research, out of 13 papers submitted, a paper on Bandicoot was selected as the best.

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