Manual scavenging is the most nauseating thing to do for some, while for others, it is the only way to put food on their plate every day. More than half a million manual scavengers across India are cleaning, carrying, and disposing of everything that we flush down the toilet.
Every year, hundreds of manual scavengers die, asphyxiated by poisonous gases. Media reports suggest there have been over 300 manhole-related deaths in India over the past three to four years. So, what good is technology if it can’t help save human lives?
A group of engineers from Kerala understood this problem, and they decided to find a solution to this problem. They launched a startup, Generonbotics, which is attempting to end sewer deaths.
The team has designed and developed a spider-shaped robot called Bandicoot that cleans manholes and sewers with precision. The robot weighs around 50kg and takes 15 minutes to clean small sewers, whereas about 45 minutes to unclog bigger ones.
Vimal Govind, the company’s 25-year-old chief executive officer, said, “Our ultimate aim is to end manual scavenging in India. It is time to change manholes to roboholes.”
It only requires a person to operate it from a safe distance. The remote-controlled robot can be sent down a manhole where it spreads its limbs and removes sewage. The robotic arm uses 360-degree motion to sweep the manhole floor and scoops out the solid waste and dumps it in a bucket.
“All operations can be viewed on a monitor,” Govind explained. “The robot can also be used to check the sewage apart from jetting the sewer lines.”
Genrobotics plans to teach manual scavengers to operate the robot with the aim of rehabilitating them. “Bandicoot will make the life of manhole cleaners safer,” Govind said. “It will help them earn a decent living without fear of losing jobs and lives. It will also break the caste system. Bandicoot will ensure manholes in India will remain clean without losing human lives.”
Moreover, Bandicoot is priced between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 35 lakh. The team works with municipal corporations and has two models: sale and rental. For the sales model, the team sells the robot and offers training sessions to the corporation. It also allows the option of renting a robot and availing training.
Genrobotics has also signed memoranda of understanding with Dubai Municipality, Sharjah, and Qatar. “We are working on the next version of the product. And are signing on more states and municipal corporations,” Vimal says.