THE PROBLEM: MANUAL SCAVENGING
One of Modern India's most Shameful Practices
Manual scavenging was banned in 2013 under The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. Yet, workers wade through the waste of numerous households, expose themselves to an abundance of harmful pathogens and suffocate in poisonous gases, just to do a job that could easily be done today using technology. The manual scavengers often descend into septic tanks and sewers without any protective equipment, masks or even gloves. They face social and economic discrimination, and there is a social stigma around them, with a rampant practice of untouchability. Despite the ban, several layers of contracting and subcontracting of the job lead to the practice being undocumented and at very low wages.
THE REASON TO ENTER MANHOLES:
The sewers and septic tanks often get clogged due to which the wastes do not flow through the sewer pipes and get blocked. These clogs, once detected, have to be cleared. Even today, thousands of sanitation workers enter manholes, sometimes more than 10 meters deep, where oxygen supply is scarce, and come in contact with toxic wastes and gases in order to clear the blockages. It leaves them very sick and often proves fatal.
SVAADAR: A SIMPLE, LOW-COST, PORTABLE, VERSATILE MACHINE TO REPLACE MANUAL SCAVENGING
(A picture of SVAADAR machine invented by Ishaan Shah)
When the manual scavengers enter manholes they are exposed to human excreta and other wastes, bringing them in direct contact with an abundance of pathogens. However, the major cause of their deaths is the toxic gases that they inhale inside septic tanks, manholes and sewer lines. These are more often than not fatal since they suffocate inside the sewer. Thus, it is not enough to just prevent the direct contact of the manual scavenger with the waste, it is essential for the worker to be able to clear blockages without entering the sewer in the first place.
Poverty, unemployment and social discrimination are the key reasons why manual scavengers continue to do what they do, despite knowing the danger it poses to them. Finding alternate modes of employment for these people doesn't seem to help in eradicating this practice, as there are always other people waiting to replace the person on his job.
A very informative and useful set of discussions with Divas Vatsa of the Safai Karmachari Aandolan made Ishaan Shah realise that provision of safety equipment would not be the complete solution to the problem, as it is a compromise that one may be making: where the true goal is to prevent the person from entering the manhole in the first place.
Hence, Svaadar was born out of the sole goal of empowering these people with an easy-to-use, versatile, portable and low-cost machine, that the manual scavengers would want to use. Something that will make them feel and realise that they can surely do the job without endangering their lives.
ABOUT THE FUNDRAISER
Over the last 3 years, I have developed Svaadar (https://svaadar.ishaan-shah.com/), a simple, low-cost, portable, versatile machine to replace manual scavenging. One of the most recognised people fighting against this horrific act is Shri Bezwada Wilson, Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient and founder of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA).
I am hosting a fundraiser event for this cause (to be donated to the SKA) at the Banquet hall of South Ridge Building (Mumbai) on Sunday, 21st August 2022 from 10:30 AM to 12 PM. The event will feature Shri Bezwada Wilson as the speaker. I have tried to get in touch with him for over 2 years, and it is wonderful to finally host an event featuring him.
ALL THE FUNDS RAISED THROUGH THIS CAMPAIGN WILL BE DONATED TO SAFARI KARMACHARI ANDOLAN (SKA) FOR THEIR FIGHT AGAINST MANUAL SCAVENGING
ABOUT ME AND THIS CAMPAIGN
I am Ishaan Shah. I am a 16-year-old student living in Mumbai, studying in grade 12 at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School. I am incredibly passionate about using technology for social good. When I was in Grade 10, in one of the early months of the COVID lockdown, I happened to see a video that was forwarded to me on WhatsApp called Mera Baba Desh Chalata Hai, a video by Tata’s Mission Garima. It illustrated a heart-wrenching account of the bitter truth of manual scavengers who enter poisonous manholes and septic tanks by risking their health and often their lives, just for a few tens of rupees. I realised that while we live in the comforts of our homes, there are people outside who have to do the unthinkable just so that we can carry on with our daily routines. It was evident to me: if there's anything in which machines MUST replace man, it is manual scavenging.
This was the motivation behind Svaadar - a simple, low-cost, machine to replace the work that has to be done by manual scavengers when they enter sewers or septic tanks through manholes. I spent several days ideating and designing it last year. I made technical drawings on paper during the lockdown that entailed a design for the machine.
Kindly request everyone to fund generously and help me bring awareness to a noble cause.
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION - SAFAI KARMACHARI ANDOLAN
Safai Karmachari Andolan is a movement that aims to completely eradicate manual scavenging from India. The movement began with the efforts of the youth from the community, led by Bezwada Wilson, who was born into a family of manual scavengers and had seen the injustices meted out to them all his life.
We are headquartered in Delhi, India. The Safai Karamachari Andolan continues to expand both in its geographical reach and its initiatives. Rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers, education of their children, the building of the Sewerage Workers' Platform, and women SHGs all across India.
SKA also works towards building awareness of the equality and dignity of every human being, through mobilizing local leadership from the community and directly confronting issues related to caste and patriarchy.
THE PLAN AHEAD: MISSION 2023
I am in the process of making a working prototype. The choice of material is Aluminium, as it is light, non-corrosive and can be manufactured at low costs. Additionally, some more attachments are in the design stage, such as a gear-based attachment for lifting debris. In case of the unavailability of electricity for driving the motor, I have also designed a manual blade cutter.
Svaadar is our key to lifting the manual scavenger community from their indignity and putting an end once and for all to this dreadful act. I dream of the day when Svaadar shall be used by every sanitation worker on his job, and no one is ever compelled to enter a manhole.
My mission is to make the product accessible to everyone by 2023.
It would cost me approximately INR 5000 to make one Svaadar machine.
PROTOTYPE - TESTING
FEEDBACK THAT YOU GET:
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