Fifteen years after they began their struggle, Kodaikanal’s mercury workers have finally got their due: Hindustan Lever Limited has agreed to a settlement with workers who have suffered mercury poisoning.
The workers and HUL have agreed upon a settlement. However, the amount has not been disclosed.
Writer and activist Nityanand Jayaraman told The News Minute that he was in touch with the workers. “The settlement was agreeable to both parties. However, the amount is known only to the company and the workers,” Nityanand said.
A few hundred workers of HULs thermometer manufacturing factory in Kodaikanal handled mercury, which permanently affected their health. The workers have alleged that some of the employees even died because of contamination.
SA Mahendra Babu had told The News Minute in May 2015, that at least 104 women including workers and the wives of male workers suffered from gyneacological problems, while at least 30 men have become infertile. In his estimate, 50 people including 14 children died from mercury poisoning.
The mercury factory was shut down in 2001 after a dumpsite containing 7.4 tons of crushed glass thermometers laced with mercury was discovered.
For the last 15 years, the workers fought the company, demanding that they be compensated.
In 2015, however, their struggle got a major boost as a young rapper named Sofia Ashraf came up with a song called Kodaikanal Won’t. A spin-off on Nicki Minaj’s song Anaconda, the three-minute rap video uploaded on YouTube caught popular imagination. The song gave the workers' struggle a visibility it did not have in the past.