A group of in IIT-Madras is developing a robot
to clean septic tanks. Such inventions are particularly significant amidst
frequent deaths of manual scavengers in India. According to the Safai
Karmachari Andolan (SKA) at least 1,470 manual scavengers died at work between
2010 and 2017.
Manual scavenging is the practice of manually
cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or handling human excreta. The International
Labour Organization (ILO) distinguishes three forms of manual scavenging: a)
Removal of human excrement from public streets and dry latrines, b) Cleaning
septic tanks, and c) Cleaning gutters and sewers.
Manual scavenging in India is prohibited under
the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act
2013. The law intends to eliminate insanitary latrines and prohibit employment
as manual scavengers. It also prohibits hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and
Kerala and Delhi has spearheaded in ending
manual scavenging. Kerala in 2018, had launched Bandicoot- a robot equipped to
clean sewers and manholes. Recently, in March 2019, Delhi government has
introduced a fleet of 200 sewer cleaning machines.