A rap music video that criticises Unilever’s Indian business for allegedly dumping toxic waste in the country has gone viral.
The star of the video is Sofia Ashraf, a former copywriter at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. In her rap, set to the beat of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” she accuses Hindustan Unilever (HUL) of dumping mercury from a now-closed thermometer factory in a forest near Kodaikanal, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. She claims prolonged exposure to mercury “killed” workers, and that local children have been born “seriously ill.”
“Unilever came and left devastation as they exposed the land to contamination,” Ashraf raps. The chorus implores Unilever to “clean up your mess.”
HUL, which produces products including Lifebuoy soap and Pepsodent toothpaste, denies any wrongdoing.
In a statement on the HUL website, the company says it did not dump glass waste contaminated with mercury in the land behind its factory. The scrap glass containing mercury was sold to a scrap dealer, in breach of the company’s guidelines. HUL said it immediately closed the factory once it found out about this in 2001 and launched an investigation.
The statement continues: “There were no adverse impacts on the health of employees or the environment. This has been confirmed by many independent studies. There was limited impact on the soil at some spots within the factory premises which required remediation.”
In a statement given to Reuters, HUL says: “There is still work to do here — which we are committed to fulfilling — as soon as we have received final consent from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to start the soil remediation.”
The rap video, posted by campaign group Jhatkaa, has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.7 million times since it was uploaded last Thursday. A corresponding online petition, calling on Unilever to “take responsibility for Kodaikanal mercury poisoning” has garnered almost 50,000 signatures.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.