New Delhi, July 25 (IANS): After claiming to have ended incidents of death caused by sewer cleaning, Delhi Social Welfare Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam will go to Kerala to explore technological solutions to eradicate casualties resulting from cleaning of septic tanks.
Speaking to IANS, the Minister said although the government has introduced sewer cleaning machines, these come with limitations and hence they are looking into new technologies.
“We have eradicated deaths due to sewer cleaning after we introduced sewer cleaning machines. But these machines have their limitations. They cannot go into narrow lanes or small houses to clean septic tanks and for that, the labourers are called in to clean the tanks without any safety gear,” Gautam told IANS.
“The poor labourers do the cleaning by risking their lives for a small sum of money. We are exploring some technology that can enable labourers to clean the tanks without going inside these and risking their lives. We are looking for robotic solutions to clean septic tanks,” he said.
Gautam will be going to Kerala on Thursday to see live demonstrations of a robot named Bandicoot, developed by Kerala-based start-up Genrobotics which has been commissioned by municipal bodies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
“We have seen online demonstrations of the robot…now I will visit there to see it, live. There will be some changes required in the robot as Delhi has its own set of challenges to deal with. I am hopeful that if the machines are found suitable, they will be introduced in Delhi in the coming few months,” he said.
A semi-automatic robot, Bandicoot requires a human operator to stand near the manhole and operate the machine using a computer.
“The machine works with the help of its many cameras, a robotic arm with 360-degree mobility, and a handy bucket to collect the waste,” the Minister said.
He said the robots will be made available to the people just like the police control room (PCR) van service.
“We are planning to put at least five machines in every district. A toll-free number will be introduced to call the machines for the service. So, just the way people call 100 for police, they can call the toll-free number for the robots.
“This will not only help the cleaners but also the people who run from place to place looking for someone to clean the tanks,” he said.
He also said that a strict law will be enacted to ensure people call for the machine the charges for which will be kept quite nominal.
“We will do proper publicity for the machines so that people will know about it and where to call in case of crisis. This will be made legally mandatory as well,” he added.
The Delhi Jal Board is using the same technology for sewer cleaning but “the machine size is a little big”.
“We tried to keep it as small as possible, but it is still big for septic tanks. So, new technology is required,” the Minister said.
With the aid of this technology, he claimed that Delhi will become the first state of the country to eradicate manual scavenging.
Speaking about the plight of the cleaning community, he said that when a person from any other profession dies on duty, the governments are very active and ensures jobs and monetary compensation to the family, “but when a cleaner dies there is no such (compensation) culture in our system.”
The Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (MS Act), 2013, has been implemented in the country but no government is talking about the rehabilitation part. Training the scavengers to use technology is part of the rehabilitation process.”
The Act says: “No person, local authority or any agency shall…engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.”
To ensure the safety and dignity of the cleaners, the Delhi government claimed in February that it was the first state in the country to introduce sewer cleaning machines in narrow lanes of the city by introducing 200 sewer cleaning machine vehicles.
“Of these 200, 100 are already in use, while the remaining 100 will be on the ground in the coming days. The cleaners are very happy with the machines,” Gautam said.
On being asked if 200 machines are enough for the city, he said the there are 272 wards in the city and the number of machines are sufficient.
“If we feel more are required, we will order more, but the machines are not needed round-the-clock so these many are enough.”