Rap video, Kodaikanal Won’t, released by the NGO Jhatkaa.org has taken on Hindustan Unilever over mercury poisoning in the Tamil Nadu city of Kodaikanal. The video has gone viral on social media.
Within a few days of being launched, ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’, a song written and performed by Chennai-born rapper Sofia Ashraf and directed by Rathindran R Prasad attracted over 878,705 views. The accompanying petition also surged to over 12,000 signers within two days.
Watch the video here:
The song has been retweeted by Nicki Minaj, the artist whose ‘Anaconda’ is the song that Ashraf’s rap is set to. The peppy and searing rap performance is reaching the world with tweets from Nandita Das, Varun Grover, and Vishal Dadlani; and is trending on Facebook India, Twitter India, and Reddit globally.
Public mobilisation group Jhatkaa.org, ex-mercury workers association, and the Chennai Solidarity Group question Unilever CEO Paul Polman’s silence after the rap video went viral calling out his company’s mercury contamination of Kodaikanal. The NGO has urged Polman and Hindustan Unilever CEO and Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta to initiate immediate action.
Jhatkaa.org campaigner Sonam Mittal says, “The way that we win this campaign is through mass engagement. Unilever is a consumer brand that depends on the trust of the Indian public to meet its bottomline. If enough of us sign on, and hold Unilever accountable, the company will have no choice but to meet the ex-workers’ demands. That’s why we invite all Indians to get involved in this campaign.”
According to the NGO statement, Polman is usually extremely active on the social media microblogging platform Twitter, and often tweets about the importance of “business as a force for good.” However, he is yet to respond to any of the hundreds of tweets that are questioning Unilever’s actions in Kodaikanal.
exchange4media reached out to HUL to seek their response to the viral nature of allegations. An HUL company spokesperson said, “The safety of all our employees is our number one priority. We have acted in a transparent and responsible manner since the issue first arose in 2001, when we immediately closed the factory and launched an investigation.
“We have been rigorous in establishing the facts and several independent expert studies have concluded that there were no adverse impacts on the health of our people at Kodaikanal. We have also taken action to ensure the clean-up of soil within the factory premises. There is still work to do here – which we are committed to fulfilling – as soon as a decision on the level of remediation required is taken by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and consent given by them to start the soil remediation.”
The spokesperson added, “This is an issue which we continue to take very seriously and we have been engaging with our former workers’ representatives to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution. This is a long standing case and we would like to see it resolved for all involved.”
In the interest of presenting the facts of the matter to all stakeholders, HUL has also provided detailed and clear, factual information on its website: http://www.hul.co.in/Images/Update-on-Erstwhile-Kodaikanal-Factory_tcm114-195572.pdf