Kodaikanal factory poisoning: HUL agrees to provide exgratia
Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has entered into a settlement and agreed to provide exgratia to the victims of the thermometer factory in Kodaikanal. The former employees of the company alleged that they were exposed to the toxic mercury-vapor during their employment-term. The former-employee association's counsel, R. Vaigai said that the settlement was the first-ever class-action litigation moved by industrial workers against occupational health exposure.
In 2015, the Kodaikanal mercury poisoning case surfaced and highlighted Unilever's irresponsible dealings. According to multiple topographical analyses, the mercury found in Kodaikanal was higher than normal. The mercury had leaked into water and land leading to the environment and even trees getting polluted. Many HUL workers had died because of mercury poisoning and from handling mercury with naked hands/feet without adequate safety measures.
A young rapper Sofia Ashraf's satirical video titled 'Kodaikanal Won't' shot to fame where she tried "to raise awareness about corporate giant Unilever's actions in the city of Kodaikanal" in Tamil Nadu. The video garnered news and was written about by the NewYork Times and the Rolling Stones. The song brought the issue to the forefront and made HUL offer a weak explanation.
Sofia Ashraf's parody 'Kodaikanal Won't' received appreciation from Nicki Minaj. This was a huge moment as the parody had been based on Minaj's Anaconda song.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) found out that a Coca-Cola plant was "spewing out raw or partially-treated sewage and toxic industrial waste into a pond", near agricultural fields bordering Delhi. The centre's green watchdog indicated that 3 of the 4 clean-up plants of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd in its Hapur (UP) facility were found to be running without the requisite 'consent'
18 of Uttar Pradesh's village councils have blamed Coca-Cola for the dearth of water in the region. They are asking that the Coca-Cola bottling plant in the area be prevented from extracting water from there. An environmental campaign group has alleged that Coca-Cola's "over usage of water is affecting the water in the ground in the area."
Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd claimed that study conducted by Central Ground Water Board in 2012 had found no evidence that the company was responsible for ponds, wells and hand pumps drying up. The study said the "depletion was not due to withdrawal of ground water by HCCBPL plant". The report said a water depletion trend had been seen in seven blocks of Varanasi.
R.Vaigai stated, "We have approached the court through a writ petition invoking Article 21, seeking the Central and the State-governments to protect the life and personal liberty of the workers. We have not moved a plea for compensation or damages."