A Machine That Will Make Sure There Are No More Deaths In Sewers
As per the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), since January 2017 one person has died every five days, on an average, while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country, but according Sulabh International Charity, more than 1,300 have died in the past three years. September 2018 witnessed death of 6 workers, mainly suffocated while cleaning the sewers filled with toxic gases.
There are no clear numbers of the deaths because most of these workers are unaccounted for and their deaths often go unreported. Even government officials feel the number can be a gross under-estimation, considering the lack of data.
In spite of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, a study conducted by inter-ministerial task force, counted up to 53,236 people involved in manual scavenging in India which is a four-fold rise from the 13,000-odd workers accounted in official records until 2017.
All About Hope Machine
Keeping the growing number of deaths in mind and to end manual scavenging from all over the country, on World Toilet Day 2018, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International, introduced India’s first sewage cleaning machine aptly named, "Hope Machine."
The costs of this machine is around Rs 43 lakh. This state-of-the-art machinery works by injecting high pressure into the tunnels and tanks, and collects the waste with a mechanical bucket operated from ground level. It can even de-choke sewer lines with steel rods that can bend, generates high-resolution images through a remote-controlled inspection camera and uses hydraulics to operate its systems
It also comes with equipment such as a gas-detecting device in case the machine faces any problem in cleaning the sewer. The company also provides protective gears and clothes for the workers.
It's a move to rehabilitate safai karamcharis and manual scavengers. In spite of the common perception that introduction of machines will take away jobs but in reality it will help in creating more dignified and safe jobs as one machine could easily employ 4 workers.
This machine can safely clean the waste matter and it will gradually make manual scavenging redundant. With this machine we hope no person will die in the sewers any more - Dr Pathak
Though it is a step in the right direction, but the concern is how many cleaning agencies could afford 43 lakhs? We could only hope the state governments provide loans to the companies, so that it could help in restoring dignity to people who have been wronged for centuries.
Pathak also unveiled a giant Indian-style toilet pot in order to raise awareness about sanitation in a country where over 150 million people do not have toilets and go out in the open.
Picture Source: NDTV, TheBetterIndia, IndiaTimes, Livemint
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