"At 19, my son Britto went to work at the Pond's company. While there, he used to complain of headaches and other problems. He'd say he'll continue to work despite the sickness to contribute to the family's meagre income," says Esther Rani, as she breaks down.
Esther was the mother of a young man who worked for Hindustan Unilever’s mercury thermometer manufacturing factory in Kodaikanal, which was shut down after the discovery of a dumpsite containing 7.4 tons stockpile of crushed glass thermometers laced with mercury in 2001.
In a powerful new video testimony, Esther talks about the devastating effect mercury had on her son and her entire family.
The Kodaikanal tragedy was discovered ten years after the company began operations in the hill-station. Mercury was found, and over 500 workers of the thermometer factory were permanently affected, and many left infertile. The effects are seen even today.
Many activists and NGOs have since demanded for some corporate responsibility from Unilever.
Last month, Chennai born rapper, Sofia Ashraf came out with a viral rap song “Kodaikanal won’t”, telling Unilever to step up, take responsibility and provide compensation to the workers.
The rap song was successful in extracting a response from the company which put out a statement, claiming that they continue to take the issue seriously.
"We have been working hard to find a fair and mutually satisfactory resolution at the suggestion of the Madras High Court and have had more than ten meetings with our former employees’ representatives since 2014," the statement said.
Esther's testimony is another reminder to keep the struggle from fading away. "I regret sending my son to that company for work," she concludes in the video.