Ramdas Athawale, the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, informed in the Rajya Sabha on August 9, that the 'Bandicoot' robot technology is effective in eradicating manual scavenging.
The sediment deposited at the bottom of the manhole can be removed with the help of Bandicoot, thereby getting rid of overflows due to filling of sewage in sewers.
Due to the increasing utility of Bandicoots, local bodies have been advised to purchase suitable manhole de-gritting machines, which can be operated without entering the manhole, and also make proper arrangements for cleaning from time to time.
The need for timely de-gritting as well as emergency cleaning of manholes can also be met by the use of locally made simple machines. These machines may not be better but will ensure an equal level of safety for the cleaning staff.
Cities have been advised to use simple cost effective mechanical products to manage their manholes and sewers.
As per Section 33 of the MS Act, 2013, every local authority or other agency is required to use appropriate technical equipment for cleaning sewers and septic tanks. The government has to promote the use of modern technology through financial assistance, incentives and other facilities.
As per the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013 (MS Rules, 2013), it is mandatory for the employer to provide safety gear, equipment and ensure compliance with the safety precautions prescribed in the Rules.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks. In addition, to ensure cleanliness in cities, the Namaste scheme is being implemented in all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in the country.
In a major boost towards ending manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and improving the safety of all sanitation workers, 500 cities in India declared themselves 'Safai Mitra Safe Cities'.
This is a major achievement of the National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE) scheme launched by the Government of India to improve the working conditions of sanitation workers.
Many sanitation workers in India die from inhaling toxic gasses while cleaning sewers and septic tanks. In July 2022, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Virendra Kumar said in the Lok Sabha that 347 such deaths had taken place in the last five years.
Namaste is a central sector scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which it launched in the year 2022 along with the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
The main objective of the Namaste scheme is to bring down the death rate to zero.
The scheme has been approved for four years from 2022-23 to 2025-26 with an outlay of Rs 360 crore.
The Namaste scheme envisages the safety and dignity of sanitation workers in urban India by creating an enabling ecosystem that recognizes sanitation workers as one of the key contributors to the operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure.
No one died due to sanitation work in India.
Sanitation work to be done by all skilled workers.
No sanitation worker should come in direct contact with human excreta.
Aggregating sanitation workers into self-help groups and empowering them to run sanitation enterprises.
All sewer and septic tank sweepers (SSW) have access to alternative livelihoods.
Initially the Namaste scheme is being implemented in 500 cities that have been identified under the AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Transformation) mission under the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
It will cover all eligible Indian cities by March 2024.