Mumbai: Honorable Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri. Eknath Shide announced the implementation ofrobots across Maharashtra to clean manholes,dispensing with human entry into sewer openings. The announcement was made during the inauguration of Clean Maharashtra Mission (Civil) 2.0.

“The Bandicoot robotic technology, which I have inaugurated in Ulhasnagar, can save the lives of sanitation workers who enter manholes to clean them. Every municipal corporation in Maharashtra must implement this, and the government will support all of them in doing so, because it is the responsibility of the government that no one dies in manholes anymore,” said  the Honorable Chief Minister, during the inaugural function.

The program was inaugurated by Shri. Eknath Shinde in the presence of the Chief Guest Honorable Deputy Chief Minister, Maharashtra State, Shri. Devendra Fadnavis; Honorable Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, Shri. Manukumar Srivastava;Principal Secretary (Navi-2) Department of Urban Development, Mantralaya, Mumbai, Smt. Sonia Sethi; and Additional Chief Secretary (Navi-1), Ministry of the Department of Urban Development, Mumbai, Mr. Bhushan Gagrani at Yashwantrao Chavan Foundation, Main Auditorium.

Various urban local bodies across Maharashtra showcased their cleaning and safety equipment used for sanitation in the exhibition. The key highlight of the program was the Bandicoot Robot, the robotic scavenger used by Ullhasnagar and Dhule municipal corporations for maintaining the manholes in the cities. These advanced robots are well-equipped with gas sensing systems to detect hazardous gases. This helps the operator perceive and eliminate risks of accidents inside manholes. The interactive and user-friendly interface for manual scavengers aids in theirrehabilitation and uplifts the sanitation works to a robot operator position and helps them lead a respectful and better life.

In September 2022, Bandicoot Robot emerged as the winner of the Swachhta Start-Up Challenge having been recognized as the best innovative solution to eliminate manual scavenging by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA).

In addition to many socio-environment benefits, the robot brings huge financial advantages to the government. Robotic scavenging is more efficient as it can cover up to 10 manholes every day against 1 or 2 being covered by manual scavenging. With huge savings on wages and operational costs, a municipal corporation can save approximately INR 8000 on cleaning 10 manholes a day.

The initiative has rehabilitated 1700+ workers across 17 states of India. It is currently being used by ULBs, smart cities, and refineries. The Bandicoot Robot is the world's first manhole cleaning robot, developed by National Award-winning start-up Genrobotics as part of the ‘Make inIndia’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative.

Other cleaning techniques, such as sucking and grabbing machines, are also available,but they are unable to remove solid waste, and the grabbing machines can only clean around 20% of the space inside the manhole. The authorities are required to use human labor in this case. Bandicoot, however, outperforms other techniques of cleaning manhole blockages with 100% efficiency because of its robotic humanlike arms and a bigger opening bucket design.

The team at Genrobotics is also running a social media campaign #missionrobohole to end manual scavenging completely and upskill the existing manual scavengers to robot operators through training and skill development programs. The sanitation workers work in hazardous conditions and are excluded from society and face social stigma for the nature of their jobs. With this mission, the company is changing this reality by providing them with training and rehabilitating them. It is ensuring a better quality of life for these communities, empowering them and allowing them a better livelihood.

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