<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The practice of manual scavenging is banned in India since 1993 and yet over 126 people have lost their lives cleaning sewers and septic tanks since January this year alone. Despite the laws and Supreme Court interventions, manual scavenging continues.However, 25 years after the ban came into force, eight young engineers — all founders of a Kerala-based startup Genrobotics — are working with Kerala government to put an end to the practice.They have designed a robot, chritstened Bandicoot, which literally means a rat, that can enter into the sewer holes and clean it, exatly like a human would do.”We were approached by the state IT Secretary M Sivasankar seeking our assistance in combating the problem through technology. The idea is to replace the term manhole with robothole so that no human life is lost doing this undignified task,” says Vimal Govind, 23, a founding-member of Genrobotics.The Bandicoot has four limbs and a bucket system attached to a spider web looking extension, which can go inside the manhole. One of the four limbs is called a ‘shovel arm’, which can rotate and slide like a human inside a manhole. “Initially, we designed a drone like structure that failed on testing. Then we conducted a month-long research and found that only a robot with human-like features will be able to do the job,” Govind said.After shoveling the heap of garbage at the bottom of the manhole, it will be collected by using the bucket system before lifting upward. The Bandicoot, which is set to be launched January next year, can operate both on manual and automatic mode. It also has Wi-Fi and bluetooth modules to enable communication between it and the user.For 23-year-old Rashid, a resident of Mallapuram district and a member of the design team, Bandicoot is more than just a product. “All of us have left our well-paying jobs to work on this project. We aren’t getting any stipend for this work, but the hope that it will prevent any further deaths is payment enough,” he said.The Kerala Startup Mission, a nodal agency of the state government that supports entrepreneurship development and incubation activities, is supporting team Bandicoot as of now. “We had received Rs 10 lakh from Kerala Startup Mission for our previous project which was an exoskeleton. We are using the leftover money on this project now. We will need more monetary support to give this dream project a global launching platform,” Rashid said.
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