The Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ “HomoSEP,” a robot developed by the Institute’s researchers to eliminate manual scavenging, is ready for field use. About ten units are to be deployed across Tamil Nadu. Sites for deployment in Gujarat and Maharashtra are also being considered, a press release said.
The robot was developed by a team led by Prabhu Rajagopal, Center for Non-Destructive Assessment, IIT Madras, and Faculty, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, together with a start-up company Solinas Integrity Private Limited. The team was in constant contact with sanitation workers and was supported by the NGO Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), which is committed to eliminating manual cleaning in India.
Currently, with SKA support, the first two HomoSEP units have been distributed to support groups led by Nagamma and Ruth Mary, whose husbands died during cleanup work.
In this model, IIT Madras empowers companies set up by such self-help groups, whose main actors are women affected by the consequences of manual cleaning. Distribution of the remaining units, which will be manufactured according to project plans, is ongoing, the press release said.
Prabhu Rajagopal said that the septic tank is a toxic environment, filled with semi-solid and semi-liquid human feces making up two-thirds of the tank. Hundreds of deaths are reported across India every year due to manual cleaning in septic tanks despite bans and prohibition orders.
The HomoSEP project is unique in that it brought together key stakeholders including universities (our team), NGOs, industry CSR and start-ups to develop solutions to a social problem. We hope our efforts will serve as an inspiration for others to join and solve this problem, he said.
The HomoSEP robot can homogenize the hard sludge in septic tanks by a specially designed rotary knife mechanism and pump the tank sludge with an integrated suction mechanism. Sanitary workers can operate the HomoSEP after receiving training and taking the necessary safety measures.
June 10, 2022