Sofia Ashraf is a Chennai-born rapper and activist (a raptivist if you will) that has been making a splash with her daring original songs that take her messages about social injustice to the airwaves. A few months ago she went viral with her hit ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’, a bold shout out to the Unilever Corporation for their unchecked dumping of toxic Mercury in Kodaikanal and now she’s following up on her promise to save the area and challenging the company one more time.
The Cheseborough-Ponds thermometer factory was set up in 1983 and was subsequently taken over by the Unilever Corporation, which remained in control till its closure in 2001. They produced around 75,000 thermometers a day, which required them to use an average of 900 kilograms of Mercury annually. They were shut down by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board when they discovered a dump site containing 7.4 tons of crushed glass laced with Mercury.
This toxic Mercury they dumped has been poisoning the forests of Kodaikanal and more importantly the workers who were employed at the factory ever since. In these 15 years Unilever had made barely any attempts to rectify the damage they did to a complex and fragile ecosystem and no attempt to compensate the people whose health they had permanently affected.
After Sofia tackled them head on Unilever agreed to clean up the area and compensate the affected families however nothing has been done and company head Paul Polman has even released reports with false information. In her hilarious new video she highlights passages that seem iffy and scathingly points out the flaws. From Unilever claiming they hadn’t in fact dumped any Mercury and claiming ignorance. While this is pretty despicable it’s in no way a new occurrence, as Sofia says ‘This isn’t the first time a corporate had meddled with facts to cover their dirty acts and it will not be the last. This is mostly a PR tactic they use.’
She decided to break away from the medium of rap for this video because she felt there was a more serious point to be driven home. Although Unilever has compensated 591 employees they also need to raise their cleaning standard to an International level. ‘This campaign is being carried out by credible journalists, lawyers and activists and it was necessary to show people the veracity of our claims with actual science and research.’ Says Ashraf ‘I took a risk with the content style and went with a more prolific and less frivolous video this time, but it seems to have attracted the right kind of conversations and that is heartening. I think sometimes, we tend to underestimate our audience’
With luck, this video will be just as successful as ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’, and people might actually pay attention to the problem at hand and Unilever will clean up the land they befouled all those years ago to a standard that will ensure the safety of their residents.
Check out the new video below and sign this petition to save the ecology and people of Kodikanal
Featured Image Courtesy www.heartofcool.com