India has a unique tool meant for fighting corruption in a non-violent manner and to shame corrupt officials asking for bribes – it is called the Zero Rupee Note. Launched by 5th Pillar, an NGO working against corruption in the country, the Zero Rupee Notes are for people to use whenever someone asks for bribes.
It empowers common citizens with the knowledge that they are not alone in this fight, and also gives them a very strong weapon to say no to corrupt practices.
The Zero Rupee Note was conceptualised by Vijay Anand, the founder of 5th pillar, in 2007. The NGO’s volunteers started distributing the notes in market places, railway stations, bus stops, shopping malls, etc. It resembles a fifty rupee note but is larger than a thousand rupee note. The organization’s contact information is printed on it along with an anti-bribery message saying – “If anyone demands a bribe, give this note and report the case”.
It also carries a strong pledge for citizens to take – “I promise to neither accept nor give bribe.”
More than 3 million notes have been distributed across the country so far and are being used well. One of the impact stories described by 5th Pillar on their website goes as follows –
“Mr. Ashok Jain went to retrieve his towed car from Chennai’s C1 police station. The police asked him to pay Rs. 800 (Rs. 150 fine + Rs. 650 bribe). Mr. Jain said he would pay in exchange for a receipt, which the police wouldn’t give. After much talking and pleading, Mr Ashok called his friend Vinod Jain, who came to the station and handed a Zero Rupee Note to the police. The police saw the note, withdrew their demand for the bribe, accepted the Rs. 150, and gave the receipt without question.”
“Many factors contribute to the success of the Zero Rupee Notes in fighting corruption in India. First, bribery is a crime in India punishable with suspension and jail time. Corrupt officials seldom encounter resistance by ordinary people that they become scared when people have the courage to show their Zero Rupee Notes, effectively making a strong statement condemning bribery,” Vijay told Zee News.
Listen to him speak about the impact of these notes and how common citizens can raise their voices against corruption.
Find more information about Zero Rupee Notes here.