Finally the day had come. It was time to meet Bharti Airtel’s senior management to discuss their diesel phase out and adoption of clean energy plan for its business operation. They had agreed to meet us and discuss these demands after the Greenpeace protest outside their head office in Gurgaon. We met on June 10th, twenty days after launch of ‘Airtel Switch off Diesel’ public campaign.

The outcome of this meeting however was not what we expected. Unfortunately, the market leader and the face of Indian telecom industry hid behind the industry association and gave us excuses instead of a commitment to find a solution to the climate crisis.

Ten days before the meeting, some Greenpeace activists scaled the pillar outside Airtel’s head office and painted ‘Switch off Diesel’ across it. Till then, the company refused to acknowledge the demand asking it to disclose its carbon emission and roll-out a plan for clean energy usage. They continued to ignore this demand even after over 62,000 mobile users across the country asked the company to switch to renewable energy. So we decided take this drastic step to make them hear well.

Their response to our activity outside their office was violent. Activists were roughed-up by the security guards and members of the staff. The activists did not retaliate and were non-violent. Some of them even sustained injuries during the scuffle. In spite of all this we refused to budge till the company management agreed to meet us. Finally the management met us and agreed to have a formal meeting in which they would make a public commitment to disclose their emissions and switch off diesel.

Greenpeace activists ask Airtel to switch off diesel outside the company's head office in Gurgaon. From the beginning, Airtel did not stick to any of the promises it had made earlier. They had agreed in writing that first the meeting would be only between Bharti Airtel management and Greenpeace representatives. However, we entered the meeting room and found around 20 people including the Industry Association head waiting for us. It was betrayal of trust!

We went ahead with the meeting and put forth the demands supported by over 62,000 mobile users, hoping that Bharti Airtel will put some serious commitment on the table to discuss and negotiate. Our hopes were dashed when they came up with a well-articulated defence from the Industry Association head for not committing to anything.

The much anticipated meeting broke down and we are back to square one. Bharti Airtel is still reluctant to give a commitment to disclose and reduce its carbon emission and switch to clean energy. So we are back again, trying to put more pressure on them to act.

Last week I sent you an email asking you to write to Bharti Airtel Chairman Mr. Sunil Mittal directly to commit to the three demands. I hope the flood of emails in his inbox will make him realise and act on the demands being made by thousands of mobile phone users. Let’s hope that this time, Mr. Mittal will live up to his reputation of being a true corporate leader by responding directly not only to Greenpeace but to all his customers and mobile phone users who urge him to go clean with clean energy.

Have you sent an email to Sunil Mittal yet?


Image: © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra