CHENNAI: After years of research, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) launched the beta version of HomeSEP, a robot for cleaning septic tanks, on Sunday.
The tractor-mounted machine was donated to Nagamma, the wife of a deceased manual scavenger in Tambaram. The woman currently makes a living by working as a househelp.
Using HomoSEP, Nagamma will now be starting ‘Tambaram Safai Karamchari Enterprises (TSKE)’, comprising former septic tank cleaners and family members of people killed during manual scavenging.
The IIT-M team, headed by professor Prabhu Rajagopal, will distribute another nine machines to these families in the coming months and plans to launch it in the market before September.
“We have been working with Safai Karamchari Andolan, an NGO, for the past few years and it found cleaning of septic tanks hugely problematic… we built a robot with shafts attached to blades that can open when introduced into the tank,” said Rajagopal.
V Samuel, state convener of the NGO, said that on the one hand, they were happy that IIT-M had provided mechanised solutions to help change lives of safai karmacharis, and, on the other, the government is not taking enough steps to stop these deaths.
In 2022, six people died in Tamil Nadu while cleaning septic tanks manually, as per a study.