The Delhi government is mulling over roping in robots to clean sewers in the city's inaccessible narrow lanes and Social Justice Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam will travel to Kerala in July end to talk to a group of engineers in this regard. In February, the AAP government procured 200 sewer cleaning machines, but their large size doesn't allow them to enter narrow lanes. "In cramped areas, people still resort to manual cleaning of sewers, many times without any safety gear.
Our government is committed to completely eradicating manual scavenging. Now, we are considering roping in robots developed by a Kerala-based company to clean manholes," Gautam told PTI. The minister said he would visit Kerala in July end and the company, Genrobotics, will give a "live demo of the robot". The idea was first discussed in February during a meeting with experts from IIT Delhi and the Delhi Jal Board, an official of the government's social welfare department said.
Since then, the minister has held two meetings in this regard. But due to the code of conduct during elections, the idea could not be taken forward, he said. According to the company, the robot, named Bandicoot, takes 15 minutes to clean small sewers and around 45 minutes to unclog bigger ones.
It can travel up to a depth of 20 meters. Municipal bodies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have already commissioned Bandicoot. They have also trained manual scavengers to operate the bots from a safe distance. Officials said the 80 kg, 1.5-metre tall robot costs around Rs 4 lakh.
According to data presented in Parliament by the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, 88 workers have died while cleaning sewers and drains across the country in the last three years.
Delhi recorded the maximum numbers of deaths -- 18. This is despite the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, banning anyone from employing people to clean sewers. According to Delhi-based Safai Karamchari Andolan, an organization campaigning for eradicating manual scavenging, around 1,850 people have died in the last decade while cleaning sewers, one every five days.