Hindustan Unilever Limited’s (HUL) thermometer factory in Kodaikanal proved to be an environmental and health disaster for its employees and communities surrounding the factory.

IIM-B prof asks students to disinvite HUL from placements over Kodai mercury poisoning
news Friday, August 03, 2018 - 18:47

Deepak Malghan, a faculty at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), has written to students at the institute asking them to dissuade Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) from placements in the institute. 

The Assistant Professor, Public Policy confirmed to TNM that he had made the request to students at the institute. "I have only written to students on campus asking them to disinvite HUL from placements. I do not believe in administrative diktats. I would like the students to consider options and make an informed choice," he confirmed to TNM.

"My communication with the students is private and privileged and I unfortunately cannot share that with you at this time. I am currently working with students trying to get them to think through HUL's action (or rather inaction) at Kodai. Such a pedagogical exercise is best conducted outside the media glare," he added. 

Hindustan Unilever Limited’s (HUL) thermometer factory in Kodaikanal proved to be an environmental and health disaster for its employees and communities surrounding the factory. 

However, authorities at IIM-B confirmed that their working relationship with HUL was not affected by the professor's appeal. "Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore continues its association, in various dimensions, with Hindustan Unilever," read a statement from Kavitha Kumar, Head of Communications at IIM-Bangalore. 

A student and a placement representative at the institute, who wished to be anonymous, confirmed that HUL was a popular option among students seeking placement at the institute. "Around ten students are placed at HUL every year and they come for multiple profiles including finance, marketing and IT. This year also was no different," says the representative.

A number of students TNM spoke to at IIM-B said that HUL was a good option for them and they would opt for placement at the company in spite of the professor's appeal. 

HUL's thermometer factory was closed in 2001 after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board found a dumpsite containing 7.4 tons of crushed glass thermometers laced with mercury beyond its factory premises.

According to activists, the work conditions meant that that more than a 100 women workers and wives of men workers had gynecological complications, while at least 30 men became infertile. Not only that, they allege this environmental disaster also claimed 30 lives including 14 children.

The issue was tied in courts until 2016 when the workers and the company reached a historic settlement. While throughout the 15-year period the issue escaped media scrutiny, a popular song— ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’ by rap sensation Sofia Ashraf gave the disaster much needed visibility. Recently carnatic vocalist and environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman had held a talk at the campus on the 'Kodaikanal won't' campaign.

Professor Deepak Malghan, by pointing to the issue, is appealing to students at the institute to make an informed choice before joining the company. 

 

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