Four sanitation workers died in Haryana’s Hisar district on Tuesday while cleaning a sewage tank, the police said, reported the Hindustan Times.

The deceased have been identified as Surender Kumar (28), Mahender Singh (25) and Rajesh (26) – all residents of Hisar’s Budha Khera village, where the incident took place. The fourth worker, Rahul Kumar (27), hailed from Rohtak’s Hassangarh village.

Hisar police spokesperson Vikas Kumar said that police personnel reached the spot after they received information about the deaths.

“The families of the victims have been informed and action will be taken after registering a first information report,” the police spokesperson said.

An ambulance was sent to the spot after the bodies of the workers were taken out of the tank.

An unidentified villager told the Hindustan Times that three sanitation workers jumped into a 50-feet-deep manhole after Surender Kumar did not come out for a while.

“When Surender did not return, Rahul Kumar climbed down,” the villager told the newspaper. “When Surender fell unconscious inside after inhaling the toxic gases, others climbed down to save him and also died.”

Meanwhile, villagers and families of the deceased staged a protest, demanding Rs 1 crore compensation and a government job for one family member each, The Indian Express reported. They refused to perform the last rites till their demands were met.

Hisar’s Deputy Commissioner Priyanka Soni has ordered a magisterial investigation into the incident to find the reason behind the deaths.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for the incident.

“This is a direct result of the criminal negligence of the BJP-JJP [Jannayak Janta Party] government and disregard for security rules,” he tweeted. “Action should be taken by registering an FIR and the families should get compensation.”

Deaths in Delhi

In a similar incident on March 29, four people had died in Delhi’s Rohini Sector 16 area after they got trapped in a sewer.

They were employed by a private contractor and were working were on the phone lines of telecom company Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited when the accident occurred.

On March 31, activist Bezwada Wilson had told that the National Human Rights Commission should call for criminal action, including arrests, in connection with the Delhi case.

Wilson is the national convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, a non-governmental organisation that works to rehabilitate manual scavengers and eradicate the practice.

Manual scavenging – or the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewer lines or septic tanks – is legally banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Despite this, the practice remains prevalent in many parts of India.

“Since it is the government that operates the sewer lines, it holds the responsibility to ensure that people do not die because of falling in sewer lines,” Wilson had said.