It has been a disappointing 120 days since we met Bharti Airtel and its allied association Cellular Operator's Association in India (COAI). It was a regular day but there are questions that have kept its memory alive. The promise made 120 days ago is yet to be met. The questions raised then are yet to be answered.
Greenpeace activists protest outside Bharti's headoffice in New Delhi. © Greenpeace / Sharbendu De
The memory of that day is still so fresh. It was a Friday morning and we were all set to meet the Bharti Airtel representatives, who had committed to meet us.
The commitment was a result of our public campaign which called on the market leader to act in line with its professed commitment to sustainable growth.
Four of us with facts and figures related to energy management and diesel consumption of the telecom sector were set to meet Bharti Airtel at its allied association, COAI's office. It was meant to be a bilateral discussion with just Bharti Airtel representatives, to be followed by a separate discussion with the association and representatives. When we entered the room there were over twenty representatives from the telecom industry and association. This was Bharti Airtel's first failure. They did not keep their word of meeting us separately first.
Nevertheless, in the good faith, we progressed with the discussion and everyone was watching us closely, listening carefully to what we had to say, and facts we presented. There were key issues, some of them very technical, being discussed from both ends in every possible way. There were some key challenges we identified and agreed to work towards.
Soon we realised that there was a lot of talk and very little hope of any concrete action from Bharti Airtel and COAI.Though the representative of Bharti Airtel was listening to us, she did not say a word. It was more like a game of hide-and-seek than a dialogue and negotiation. After two and half hours of intense dialogue, the meeting ended with the Bharti Airtel led COAI committing to disclose a detailed and sustainable emission reduction plan within the next 90 days'.
Since then, well over ninety days have passed, leaving behind broken promises and assurances. In a clear contradiction, which highlights that such a roadmap is possible, Vodafone recently disclosed its carbon emissions publicly. This is an important step, in a sector, which is currently not regulated on its use of subsidised diesel..
The hide and seek game with Bharti Airtel started on June 10th has not stopped. The campaign with the laggards will continue till they fulfil their promise and switch-off diesel.