As part of the Global Climate Strike, the Delhi chapter of Fridays for Future organised a protest march from Jantar Mantar to Connaught Place on Friday, September 27.
Hundreds of students from schools and colleges across Delhi and beyond came together to demand strict government legislation on climate change. They held up banners and posters proclaiming their demands through strong words and jarring images.
The repeated chants of “Climate Crisis se Azadi” resonated through the crowd while the streets leading up to the protest area in Connaught Place were filled with shouts of “What do we want? Climate Action! When do we want it? NOW!” Soon after, a number of bystanders and pedestrians also joined in to make their voices heard for a common cause.
Fridays for Future, which has now become a global phenomenon, was started by Greta Thunberg – a 16-year-old climate justice activist – who led a solitary march to the Swedish Parliament on a Friday last year to demand government action against climate change. The move caught attention worldwide and particularly inspired school students who have been marching out of their schools and homes ever Friday for the last one year.
“I have read a number of books on climate change but a lot of people aren’t aware about this issue. Most people think that a plastic ban is in place so everything will work out. But that’s not the case. People need to understand the science behind this, the 1.5 degree temperature rise which has to be controlled and that we must stick to it. Otherwise mankind will face an existential crisis” Niket Gehlawat, a third-year law student and a member of Fridays for Future, Delhi, told Live Wire.
He spoke about various other drives conducted in and around the city and the government’s continued apathy towards environmental crisis.
“Around 200 people are now regular members of Fridays for Future, Delhi and are environmentally conscious people. But there are more people who need to understand the crisis we are facing. We have conducted awareness drives in Hauz Khas and Khan Market. So yeah, people usually respond to it well but again they say that the government is doing enough for the climate which is totally not true” Gehlawat added.
At Jantar Mantar, school students took turns to talk about Thunberg’s speech at the UN climate summit and the tiny steps they take to combat climate change.
“We saw Greta’s speech at the UN Climate Summit and were really inspired by it. As school children we try to contribute against climate change as much as possible on an individual basis,” said Anant, a student of Birla Vidya Niketan. His friends Devansh and Siddharth from the same school nodded in agreement.
“I carpool almost every day to school unless I am really late or I have an emergency. I am used to sleeping with the AC on so I set a timer at night and make sure that I set the temperature above 22 degrees. I feel that it’s the least that I can do” Anant added.
As the day went by, the protestors reached Connaught Place and staged a ‘Die-in’ outside the gate number 6 of Rajiv Chowk metro station wherein some of them pretended to be dead to demonstrate the irreversible effects of climate change. The site of students lying on floor caught the attention of the regular commuters and pedestrians who stopped by to hear what the students had to say.
The ‘Global Climate Strike’ was preceded by ‘ClimateGiri’– an event organised by 9ISM9 (NINEISMINE)/PRATYeK), an advocacy group for children. This was organised at Jantar Mantar in collaboration with Fridays for Future.
At the event, students from schools and colleges across Delhi performed various cultural programmes like dance, music and theatre to enlighten the audience about the ill-effects of climate change.
At ClimateGiri, Steve Rocha, national convenor of 9ISM9, spoke to LiveWire about how Thunberg has inspired millions of students in India and abroad.
“Greta is the torchbearer for climate change activism today. The older and wiser people in elected governments across the world have been promising action against climate change but no concrete steps are being taken. Greta has shown young people around the globe that it is high time they take a stand and more importantly, how they do it,” he said.
He also talked about how school students are taking the matter in hand while the government squabble over the climate change.
“Hundreds of children have come here for ClimateGiri in spite of some of them having exams today and protests like this are happing all around the world. This is symbolic of the rage that young people are experiencing. They are saying enough is enough. Enough of ceremonial tree planting sessions and ineffective plastic bans. We need an emergency to be declared during which new government laws are enacted that respond effectively to the climate crisis which we are facing today” Rocha said.
The government, protestors say, has not been taking any concrete action in this regards and has only been giving excuses to dodge the issue.
“The joint secretary of the minister of environment, being a government official herself, told us that the government is doing enough. She said that we are a developing country and since the US and other leading nations have developed over the years using fossil fuel, we should follow the same path. They are giving general excuses that other developing countries give. They don’t realise or they refuse to take into account that the developed countries have polluted the world with the path they have taken,” Nekit Gehlawat said.
“Any government can take the lead to solve this problem but they are in a way enslaved to the corporate world. The entire system is based on greed. Greed and profit are killing our earth right now and if that major issue is not dealt with, nothing can solve this crisis,” he added.
This is not the first of its kind climate change protest in Delhi.
Just last week, on September 20, Delhi held its biggest ever Fridays for Future protest outside the ministry of environment, forests and climate change. More than 2,000 people marched from Lodhi Gardens to the ministry so that the government enacts strict environmental laws and takes action against climate change at the earliest.
While the protestors were stopped by police barricades about half-a-kilometre from the ministry, a delegation of the Fridays for Future team was allowed to pass through and meet the joint secretary of the minister of environment in the absence of the minister herself.
With no satisfactory response, students gathered for yet another protest a week later.
Featured image credit: Fridays for Future