On Friday morning, more than 100 students from different parts of Delhi and Gurgaon donned their usual school uniforms.
But they didn’t go to school.
Instead, the students gathered at Delhi’s central park in Connaught Place to protest against the government’s inaction on climate change.
The gathering was in solidarity with a global student strike which was scheduled to take place in different cities around the world today. Scores of students from over 100 countries walked out of classrooms to register their protest against those in power for not doing enough to tackle climate change.
In the heart of Delhi, the students took turns to talk about issues like air pollution, global warming, the benefits of recycling and the use of clean fuel, among other things.
As the bystanders looked on, the students talked about the harmful effects of burning rubber tyres and coal, throwing plastic wrappers on the road and smoking excessively. Behind them, others held up posters that read: ‘Adults Need Education’, ‘Kids Need Clean Air’, ‘Save Our Future’ and so on.
In the middle of the park, a student-led choir group sang, ‘Switch off the lights, switch off the noise’ to encourage everyone to to take every measure they can to help rein in climate change.
A few feet away, a group of school students echoed the sentiment while interacting with some not-for-profit organisations.
“We keep putting the blame on others but don’t do anything at our own level. How many of you car-pool?” asked Vaani from DAV school.
As soon as she had asked her question, Vijaylakshmi, from a not-for-profit organisation called Pratek, pointed at a plastic wrapper lying right there. “We have been talking about preserving nature since the morning but none of us cared enough to even throw away this wrapper lying here in the dustbin. No change will come unless you practice what you preach,” she said.
Apart from holding up a mirror to the people around, the students also challenged the government for not making climate change an election issue.
Pointing at how the roads in central Delhi are much cleaner than anywhere else, 16-year-old Laiba said, “It’s weird that the areas where ministers live are so clean and the ones where we live aren’t. I just want to tell the government that you can’t fool us by just cleaning selective areas and ignoring the garbage piled elsewhere. Elections are here and you must talk about climate change.”
The adults present at the protest – who until now were quietly listening to the students – finally joined in to share their own grievances. A middle-aged pregnant woman talked about her fears of giving birth to a child in such a polluted environment.
“I don’t know how I’m going to protect my child from all the pollution in the city. I would take this opportunity to urge our government to implement existing policies related to the environment,” she said.
Similarly, a few others extended support to the kids by holding up posters saying, “Change the system, not the climate” and “Don’t be a fossil fool”.
The climate change protest comes a month after the Haryana government passed the Punjab Land Preservation Bill, 2019, opening up the Aravalli hills for mining and real estate. Even then, students in Gurgaon had come out to protest against the move.
Kriti Kakar, a class XII student from Gurugram’s Heritage School said, “Climate change is primarily the result of the greenhouse effect, and accelerated by human activities like deforestation. If the Aravallis are destroyed it would mean that we lose a major carbon sink, along with losing the home of our rich flora and fauna. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will significantly increase because of this.”
However, the state government took no action, prompting students to join the worldwide movement against climate change started by 15-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Last year in August, Thunberg had decided to skip school on the 15th of every month to mark her protest that governments weren’t doing enough to battle climate change.
Today, March 15, was the biggest event yet.