It was "borewell robot", an indigenous device developed by a Madurai-based social worker, that saved a 3-year old boy who fell into an abandoned borewell in a village in Tirunelveli in southern Tamil Nadu.
For M Manigandan, who along with his team is involved in operations to save children who accidentally fall into borewells, the rescue of the boy on April 14 marked the first success with his device.
An ITI educated fitter and now working as a faculty in a college which imparts vocational training to rural people, the 43-year old says it took him several years to develop the 'robot', the trigger for which was his own son's accidental fall into a borewell in 2003 and rescue.
"My prayer every morning is that a situation that demands use of my equipment to rescue children should not arise," he told PTI.
Explaining the device, he said the 'robot' is actually a two feet high simple iron framework weighing just five kg. It has a hook on its top to enable its suspension through a rope deep into borewells.
The device has a high resolution camera which can take pictures even in pitch dark conditions and arms which are detachable. It can lift weight upto 50 KGs. The pictures can be seen on a computer monitor.
"In Tirunelveli, we first tried the rubber arms...but the child kept pushing it away probably out of fear...then I used the clamp arms which clutched the child and thankfully we were able to rescue the child."
Asked if the child would not get hurt if the arms clutched it too closely, he said a pressure guage continuously monitors the pressure exerted by the arms and the victim's response.
On challenges faced in such rescue operations, he said the main problem was delay in getting information.
"By the time we reach the spot it is several hours after the occurrence which diminishes the chances of survival of the victim." He wants the government to come forward to manufacture such "rescue robots" and make them available in fire stations. "It is easy to make, it will not cost more than Rs. 60,000," he said.