Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

A Million Mutinies: Raising India's Environmental Awareness

Save Oil, Save Future, Chandigarh, India (Nice Logo/Flickr)

Save Oil, Save Future, Chandigarh, India (Nice Logo/Flickr)

Sunita Narain

All sorts of ways. We even take out ads in newspapers. We took out an ad when we were doing pollution campaign. We took out a half-page ad in the major daily times of India and we said, “Roll down the window for a bulletproof car Mr. Prime Minister. The security threat is not the gun. It is the air of Delhi.” And then we gave him an agenda for what we wanted done. And we also had an open letter to him. But also what we did was to give people his home phone and fax number and we said,“Phone into him and fax him and tell him how outraged you are.” And it was amazing. This happened a week before the Delhi election. And he really got a number of calls. And because it was his home number, he got quite irritated as well--so we do a lot of things.

We have a news magazine which goes out. As I said, it's knowledge-based activism, so we do a lot of research. And it is that research we then constantly pick out. So we would do press conferences for instance. Just today we're doing a press conference in Delhi because we are very angry with the fact that the government isn't moving fast enough on this moving towards compressed natural gas, buses. So we're doing a press conference to put pressure on government. We do press conferences. We do public meetings, we do a lot of work with the medical community to try and get them understanding the linkages. They, then, go out and talk to their patients.

Question from the Audience

Do you have any partnerships with corporations because they're part of the solution you know. Unfortunately.

Sunita Narain

We have very good relationships with corporations, but on our terms--I'm very clear about that. I can't deal with corporations that everyone is talking about partnership but it is a completely unequal partnerships. It has to be partnerships of equality. I'm very clear. With our automobile campaign, when they sued us for $25 million--and they had to withdraw in a week--it only happened because we wrote back to them and said, “Wonderful. This is the best thing you could've done for us and we'll see you in court.” And that image of us-- that we're difficult, we're independent, we're critical. We say what we want to say --remains strong even when we sit down at the table with them. That's also the strength again of India-- we can do this. We can say all this publicly. We can do all this publicly, and not face any problems atall, in terms of government or political pressures and things like that.

So, our relationships with corporations--we have a project to rate industry in terms of the environmental impact. And that's our one area where we're really supposed to partner with them because we rate them. But it's a voluntary program so we rate them even if they don't want to be rated. And, we have an independent inspection system where we advertise for people from our readers and we say, “If anyone wants to go in and inspect a factory, we'll pay you a 1,000 rupees and we'll train you how to do it. Go and inspect.” And we got an incredible response. We went out and we sent all these people inspecting factories and they went out and they were very interested -- the young people that went out and took photographs of the diversional channels where they were diverting their effluents and things like that. And they sent us all this. S oindustry knows that we get our data even if don't want this.