Kodaikanal, August 4: With 10+ lakhs views in 5 days, the Chennai-born rapper Sofia Ashraf's video Kodaikanal won't step down has gone viral around the web.
The lyrics of the video is penned by Sofia and is based on Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda'.
The video takes a jab at the failure of Hindustan Unilever Limited to clean up mercury contamination or compensate workers affected by its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal.
The video depicts the issue faced by the workers in mercury thermometer plant.
The video has gained wide prominence among the public and celebrities, with people like Nandita Das, Varun Grover, Vishal Dadlani sharing the video.
The Mercury issue
It was in 1983 that a mercury thermometer plant owned by Cheseborough Ponds Inc in Watertown, New York, closed down and in the same year they relocated to India.
Ponds India collaborated with Hindustan Unilever in 1998. They imported the glass and the mercury primarily from the US and exported its thermometers to the US-based Faichney Medical Co.
The thermometers traveled to the markets in the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and Spain from there.
In the early 2000's the workers at the factory started having Kidney and related ailments.
The residents uncovered a mercury dumping site in 2001, where around 7.4 ton of crushed mercury containing glasses were recovered from the site.
The company also dumped waste materials with mercury content in parts of Shola forests which is under company's property.
This led to a major public protest. In the same year the factory closed after 18 years of operation.
The Madras High Court constituted an 'expert committee' to decide on the mercury workers' health claims in 2007.
The committee failed to find adequate grounds to link the current clinical condition of the workers to past mercury exposure in the factory.
There are allegation that Hindustan Lever has failed to provide proper compensation to the ex-workers and their dependants. A majority of them died or became physically challenged as a result of mercury poisoning.
A preliminary health survey conducted by two occupational and community health specialists from Bangalore-based Community Health Cell on 30 workers and ex-workers found many people had gum and skin allergy related problems which appeared to be due to exposure to mercury.
More than 1,100 workers worked in the factory during its life-time. From their testimonies, workers appeared to know nothing about the dangers of working with mercury. There was no safety equipment for the workers and neither were there proper facilities to bathe clean after working in the factory.
They were not provided with face masks to reduce their intake of mercury in the air and changed uniforms only once every three to four days. Contract workers worked with their bare hands to clean up the mercury. The workers also took home on them particles of mercury that affected the members of their family, including their children.
Workers began to suffer headaches, skin rashes and spinal problems. With no knowledge about mercury, the workers failed to link their illnesses to it. Absenteeism and attrition increased over time, quotes Green peace blog.
With this viral video the issue has been brought again into limelight
The video also ask the viewers to sign the petition asking for Unilever to clean up the mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal. The campaign is gaining momentum in the social networking platforms. Lets wait that justice will be provided to the victims