Automated Scavenging- A Technological Solution For Eliminating the Death Trap

Since the times human beings have settled in colonies, they have benefited from the economies of scale offered by these settlements. For example, buyers and sellers could exchange a variety of food items in larger quantity in local markets of these settlements. Teachers could get more students, and students could get more teachers of different disciplines under same roof of Gurukuls.

Early man was close to nature in whatever he did and adopted practices in harmony with nature. Early morning, he would walk for a mile or two in fresh air, attend to call of nature in open fields or forests, enjoy an ablution in flowing river or pond. A “tumbler (Lota)” used to be handy companion in these morning chores. This was actually a healthy system of living in harmony with nature.

However, living in settlements disrupted this harmonious relation with nature. As the settlements became bigger, this ubiquitous early morning walk to nearby fields or forest became difficult. Elderly and sick people must have been hit hard by the growing settlement size.

It was then that inhabitants of settlements must have decided to build their private dry/wet toilets in one corner of their houses. Private toilet space provided a level of comfort for performing daily rituals even in inclement weather. The early settled man was intelligent enough not to allow these toilets to flow into street drains carrying waste water, but at the same time ignorant enough to visualize underground sewer flow system in those settlements.

Somewhere here manual scavenging must have evolved as an economic activity to keep these private toilets clean. Some people at bottom of social-economic/skill pyramid must have got engaged for manual scavenging on daily basis and dump the excreta outside the limits of the settlements. Their dirty but important work maintained the hygiene of the settlements and kept these clean.

Over the period of some generations, this economic activity might have got embedded in social structure, similar to other economic activities like iron smith, carpenter jobs.

In today’s world the settlements vary from small villages and small towns to big metropolises. It is very sad to see various forms of this inhuman manual scavenging still prevalent in these settlements. With so much technological progress and affluence we have still not been able to completely remove manual scavenging from modern settlements of cities, towns and villages of Bharat.

For example, in Bharat’s capital New Delhi, a well-functioning underground sewerage system is in place in most of the city’s planned area. But many unplanned parts of the city which cater to the city’s skilled/unskilled labour requirement, has no such underground sewerage system.

Another issue is related to distribution / availability of resources with municipal bodies mandated to manage the underground sewerage system. A resource rich city like Delhi can manage and maintain vast network of underground sewerage handling system through modern and automated machines so that need of manual scavenging is eliminated. But in smaller towns and cities with fewer resources, manual scavengers with their primitive tools are still deployed for cleaning and maintaining sewer lines. In this case an affordable technological solution for managing and maintaining sewer lines is needed by small municipalities.

In unplanned parts of metropolises like Delhi and small towns like Hapur, private toilets with underground septic tanks are built by residents. More such toilets are being built as recently central government has offered grants for building such toilets in every household under Swachch Bharat Mission. Septic tanks in these toilets need desilting/evacuation of collected matter at regular intervals. Use of manual scavengers in evacuation of these septic tanks is another problem that needs a technological solution, which should be affordable to small entrepreneurs already engaged in this work.

Looking at the plight of manual scavengers still engaged in the above two scenarios, two friends, namely, Pankaj Prasad from Ghaziabad and Bhagwat Dayal from small town of Ellenabad (Sirsa-Haryana) have developed low-cost machines which complete automated safe scavenging of sewer lines.

For septic tank cleaning, another prototype is being developed. Both of them are mechanical engineers by qualification and work in the oil and gas industry.

These machines have been suitably named “Sewer Line Safe Scavenger” and “Septic Tank Safe Scavenger”, reflecting their utility and type of use.

These machines can be operated by any unskilled manpower who are currently engaged in manual scavenging after two days training course designed by Mr. Bhagwat Dayal and imparted at Ellenabad.

It is high time, the recently launched Government of Bharat programs of “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” offer support to people like them who are providing affordable technological solution to socio-economic problems, which enhance quality of life of common people.

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About the Author

Pankaj Prasad
Working Professional, Student of Dharma