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Thiruvananthapuram: Meet Bandicoot, Kerala’s answer to the problem of manual scavenging.

From March 2, Kerala Water Authority will deploy Bandicoot, a robot that can replace humans involved in manual scavenging to clean sewers. Developed by a start-up, GenRobotics, Kerala hopes Bandicoot can help end manual scavenging.

Then Kerala will become the first manual scavenging-free state in India.

Although manual scavenging is banned in the southern Indian state, many humans are still employed in many cities where they work under inhuman conditions.

Accidents in sewers claim lives of dozens of ‘safai karmacharis’ (cleaners) every year. Last year alone recorded 39 deaths in just 100 days.

Manual scavenging is the practice of manually handling — cleaning, carrying, disposing — human and animal excreta from dry latrines, sewers and streets.

Employing manual scavengers is a criminal offense in India as per the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.

Despite deploying manual scavengers being a criminal offense, more than 180,000 people in rural India work as manual scavengers, as per the Census of India (2011). The estimates say 95 percent of manual scavengers are women.

Bandicoot can lower itself into sewers, and uses four ‘limbs’ to navigate within. A shovel-like appendage clears out blocks. Bandicoot will first clean the sewers of Thiruvananthapuram ahead of the famous Attukal Pongala festival scheduled for February 22 to March 3 this year.

Ponkala (boil over) is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Ponkala is a special temple practice in the southern part of Kerala. The ten-day- long celebration commences in the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham (February- March) on the Karthika star.

Items to pray for: 

  • Pray that manual scavenging will cease across India.
  • Pray that other states will follow Kerala’s lead

(With inputs from Matters India)

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