Greenpeace activists hang a banner from Bharti office in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. The banner asks Bharti Airtel to "Switch off Diesel"

I remember when my dad bought one of those ancient stone age cell phones at a time when they were not a necessity. I was amazed! A phone with no wires, expensive calls, the fact that I could call my dad whenever I wanted and most importantly his first service provider Airtel. For a house with a mobile phone, Airtel was probably every child’s best friend.

Over the last decade and a half, things have changed. From a being a child’s best friend, Airtel has moved to being very stubborn and harmful to our environment. They are using tax payers money to run their towers on dirty diesel which pollutes our environment. I believe they can change, so I decided to take the message to them myself.

Greenpeace activist holds a solar panel, outside the Bharti office in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.On the morning of June 28th I was on my way to the Bharti headquarters along with few more activists to ask Chairman Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal to clean up dirty Airtel. I was excited and nervous at the same time. We got there around 9 am and in no time, we were able to paint our message on their signboard, display the solution by setting up a tripod symbolising a telecom tower with a solar panel on the top and hang a bigger banner  on their building asking Airtel to ‘Switch off Diesel’.

We were out in the scorching sun while the Greenpeace India representatives were having discussions with the senior Bharti management. The company gave a verbal commitment to continue discussions with Greenpeace and work on the plan to phase out diesel from its mobile network towers. When our campaigners asked for a written commitment they refused to oblige.

After a three hour long discussion, Bharti decided to call the police and aggressively remove the non-violent activists. Eight of our activists were detained and later released without any charges.

This last decision distanced me from Airtel, who was a childhood friend for me. I still think Airtel can be my best friend, especially when my ask is clear and the solution is available. So let me ask them again, “Airtel - Switch off Diesel!”


Image 1: © Greenpeace / Sharbendu De

Image 2: © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra