I always wanted to volunteer for Greenpeace India since the time I heard about it. When I finally got a chance to volunteer, and attend my first induction, we were shown videos that described many of the campaigns Greenpeace India ran; I was thoroughly impressed. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be part of a Greenpeace action. But I honestly never thought I will get a chance to be part of a peaceful demonstration so soon.
One hot sunny afternoon in March (you know how it is in Delhi -H-O-T-), I received a call from our mentor asking about my interest in joining an upcoming volunteer session. I was extremely excited and curious to learn the secrets behind Greenpeace’s campaigns and decided to show up for the session.
Participating in the session was a good idea. I learnt a lot from those few hours of discussion, interaction, activities and everything else. Also, I found time to have small chats with Greenpeace India employees from various states of India during lunch. They were quite a bunch of inspiring people to meet. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like good food and great company and I bet you’ll agree.
Just when I thought I couldn’t have spent the day any better, came the surprise announcement of volunteer-activists’ participation in an upcoming non-violent action. The intention was to raise our concerns and the concerns of over 100,000 Indian citizens about the careless implementation of proper standards for all coal based thermal power plants across India. And that was not all, news suggested that there was also a discussion within the government body that there will be a weakening of these standards.
I wanted to do something about it as a responsible citizen because this seemed like a thoughtless decision. I stepped up to the role of an activist. My dream was coming true; the dream to be a part of an adventurous, thrilling, risky and impact creating action. As the D-day closed in, my excitement grew stronger. I took up a daring responsibility to wear a large, 4-kilogram-heavy black lung that read ‘Coal Kills Air’ for over two hours. There were other volunteers who wore masks and held placards, and campaigners from other organizations who joined in the movement.
After a great deal of waiting, the campaigners met with the Joint Secretary, and word was given that the air pollutant safety limit will not be weakened. That was crossing the first milestone. We’re hopeful and trust the limits will not be weakened. But it’s up to the government now to care about citizens like us or corporate interests.
I am looking forward to participate in more of such events as it was a really big learning for me. It taught me how much patience and a composed behaviour can really help you stand your ground for for justice. Also, I learnt the necessity of being calm and peaceful in communicating your points in front of another person who might possess some other opinion. This experience has definitely inculcated endurance in me.
Shweta Mittal is a Volunteer with Greenpeace India