BENGALURU: A manhole cleaning robot, low-cost onion storage solution, newborn breathing support system... The Arohan Social Innovation Awards, held on February 19, aimed to reward those creating innovative solutions for the underprivileged and marginalised in India. It identified winners from four categories – Healthcare, Rural Development, Destitute Care and Sustainability. Presented by the Infosys Foundation, this year’s winners were shortlisted from 1,700 submissions and were evaluated by a jury, including Sudha Murty, chairperson of Infosys Foundation and Sumit Virmani, chief marketing officer, Infosys.
Murty stated that while she was nervous about the submissions, she was proven wrong with the list of participants. “Innovation can and should create inclusive, cost-effective and sustainable solutions,” she said. Nandan Nilekani, one of the co-founders of Infosys Foundation, expressed his confidence at the awards programme becoming a beacon of innovation. “Innovation best happens when there are many constraints – money, opportunity. It forces one to think harder to come out with ways of solving complex problems,” he said.
Among the ten winners was the team of Rashid K, Vimal Govind MK and Nikhil NP from Kerala, who developed ‘Bandicoot’, a manhole cleaning robot, stated to be the world’s first such robot. Rashid, who is the co-founder and director of Genrobotic Innovations, said he would like to eradicate manual scavenging from India by 2025. ‘Bandicoot’ is manufactured in Thiruvananthapuram and is being utilised in 10 states across India.
“We witnessed a manhole accident in Kerala where three people died in 20 minutes. My friends and I developed a robot, which can execute activities in the manhole with robotic arms and can be operated by an individual,” Rashid. He added that there are challenges in approaching state governments and a policy either from the Centre or state regarding robotic means for scavenging in manholes would help take things on a larger scale. The team has collaborated with Tata Group for large scale manufacturing.
Speaking to CE, Murty stated that platform doesn’t have any limitations on the areas of innovation. “The manhole cleaning robot was started by fresh college graduates. It is an expensive project. The money given to their team is not sufficient and I am aware of it. If we have innovations that are more relevant to state governments, then they should support them because production is difficult and it’s inhuman to have a human being step inside a manhole,” she said.
The event also recognised the efforts of Nitesh Kumar Jangir from Bengaluru and Rohit Patel from Madhya Pradesh. While Patel developed a low-cost onion storage solution that can increase the shelf-life of the vegetable through monsoon, Jangir developed Saans, a low-cost multi-powered, multi-use newborn breathing support system that requires minimal supporting infrastructure. Jangir said that close to 2,000 babies die in India every year due to inadequate breathing support with most breathing support equipment being available only in unital ICUs. “Existing systems require compressed oxygen, continuous electric supply and are not portable or require trained personnel. Saans does not require continuous supply of electricity with an in-built battery which can be charged. It can be powered through oxygen through an in-built compressor,” said Jangir, who added that awareness in the Indian market on innovative devices is required.
Meet the winners
Gold Award: `20 Lakh
Partha Pratim Das Mahapatra, Kolkata
Dr. Binita S. Tunga and Dr. Rashbehari Tunga, Bengaluru
TUMAAS (Foundation for Tuberculosis, Malnutrition and AIDS), Mumbai
Rashid K, Vimal Govind MK, and Nikhil NP, Kerala
Ramalingam PL, Chennai
Silver Award: ` 10 Lakh
Nitesh Kumar Jangir, Bengaluru
Rajlakshmi Borthakur, Bengaluru
Dr. Vishal US Rao and Shashank Mahesh, Bengaluru
Rohit Patel, Madhya Pradesh