Social Media: The Plenipotentiary
A legal maxim reads “justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done”. A few days ago Unilever India compensated 591 ex-workers from Kodaikanal after a rap song video went viral on social media. The company was sued by its former employees in 2006 who alleged health poisoning from mercury poisoning while working for the market giant at its facility which produced mercury based thermometers and practices this unethical act of dumping mercury waste in the forest, while the workers were made to handle the waste without protective gear. The suit claimed damages from the employer stating negligence and corporate liability. The results were so drastic that the workers suffered health deterioration and some even lost their children as the result of the toxic waste.
Unilever denied such claims and refused the responsibility for health loss of its workers and the suit went nowhere until the rap song by Sofia Ashraf emerged on social media and went viral, and Uniliver was deigned to compensate the affected ex-workers.
“A guilt ridden mother can actually take care of her mentally challenged son, a family can pay off the debt incurred by the medical bills of their (now dead) son and a physically and mentally worn-down man can support his family because of you (the people),” added Sofia in her Youtube Video.
Many workers and other people have also suffered in incidents like the Bhopal Gas tragedy 1984 and Chernobyl Nuclear Facility 1986 where after years of excruciating suffering and visits to court, the people got little or no compensation.
In September 2012, a textile factory in Baldia Town Karachi was burned down due to reasons still unknown and despite huge media coverage and allocation of funds by the government to compensate the affectees, relief is still an alien word for those who suffered as the amount is either unpaid or embezzled. This reminds me of the words uttered by an affected family from Bhopal,”The suffering continues, so does the struggle”.
A minister in Iran got caught red handed on social media referring to the women like “foxes and women unwelcome in the Iranian Parliament”, and was asked for an apology by his female colleagues in the House but the case has already been filed against him, thanks to the social media.
Here lies the problem, the responsible party does nothing, even if the matter is sub-judice, until succumbed to public pressure. Print and social media must be lauded for their ways but if they have to be the vigilante in town then why is there a system that promises to safeguard, protect and interpret the rights of the people. Has the fourth pillar become all too powerful for that?
Does the world need to see the video first and get it liked and shared a million times and only then is the dispute going to be disposed of in a likewise manner? That does not define the “justice… must be seen to be done” maxim since “justice delayed is also justice denied”.
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