The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday took cognisance of fatalities related to manual scavenging in the state, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Vishal Mishra took note of the deaths of two sanitation workers in Gwalior last week. The contractual workers – Aman (24) and Vikram (26) – died of suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Gwalior on June 15, reported ANI.

Citing media reports, the court said that several instances have taken place in Madhya Pradesh in which workers from economically weaker sections of society were sent inside sewer lines without adequate safety gear.

The bench issued notices to state authorities and listed the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

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

Only 508 districts out of the 766 districts in the country have declared themselves to be manual scavenging free, the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has said in an official document, according to The Hindu.

On August 2 last year, the Centre had told the Lok Sabha that there were no reports of anyone in the country being engaged in manual scavenging. However, it said that 330 persons died in accidents while cleaning sewers and septic tanks between 2017 and 2021.