03 September 2014

Protest in Mumbai against Pesticides Found in Indian Tea © Greenpeace

  It was just another day for me back in Bangalore until my phone rang (tring- tring). On the other end was Alpha 1, that's when I knew this was "the call". Yes, this is when we realised that there's a cocktail of pesticides in our chai.

Hi, my name is Sumanth Shetty, I am an average 23-year-old from Bangalore. I have been volunteering with Greenpeace India for the last three years of my life, working on different environmental issues and trying to save the planet in every way possible.

Now we all wake up to different problems every day, personal, official, political, environmental etc. But very few of us do something about it. We are one of them, known to you all by many different names, anti-national, threat to the society, terrorist but we are fine with activists because that's what we do: Activism.

Getting back to the issue at hand. Pesticides in our tea, yes shocking but what is more shocking is it's not only in our tea/chai. There are also pesticides in the vegetables and fruits we eat. In fact, that has become a threat to our exports too. So we decided, we aren't going to keep quiet about it; "GOT TO MAKE SOME NOISE" but in a peaceful way.
So on the 11th of August 2014, six other activists and I occupied seven billboards on Bandra Reclamation Road, Mumbai. At first it felt great, the view of the ocean, the sea breeze in my hair but very soon the scenario changed because it started raining heavily and got really uncomfortable when it stopped raining.

The sea breeze that gave an awesome feeling during the day was scary when it woke me up at 2 a.m. The fear of waking up 100 feet above the ground in the middle of the night was something else but wait this is not about me, you or any particular person. The issue is bigger than all of us; it's about our mother nature getting affected on a day to day basis and you doing nothing about it.

The seven bill-boards had names of seven different companies who are currently in the tea industry and we were telling them to 'Clean Chai Now'. My billboard was telling Golden Tips and Ko-Cha to clean our tea.

Did it help? Is our tea clean now? Not yet but that is the beauty of activism. You raise your voice now so the future generation doesn't need to. Two major companies committed to go clean between the three days me and my activist friends occupied the billboards. You know what our old man said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." – Mahatma Gandhi.

This is not the end, this is the beginning. Over and out.

Click here to clean chai now!

Sumanth Shetty is an environmental activist.