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A new way to fight corruption in India

April 6, 2010

An Indian lobby group has created an unconventional way to attempt to fight corruption: a zero rupee bill.

What could be possibly done with a zero rupee bill? What is it for?

It’s a protest note. A piece of paper, colored as a 50 rupee note, with a picture of Gandhi (like all other Indian rupee bills) with no monetary value.

Its purpose is to reject India’s baksheesh culture and to serve as a response to corrupt officials as they ask for bribes.

The idea came from an expatriate in the US, a University of Maryland professor, who was astonished with extortion demands when he visited his country. He used the zero rupee note with officials as a polite way to say no.  

Vijay Anand, president of the NGO 5th Pillar embraced the idea and decided to make good use of it. The notes were first distributed among students as an encouragement to eliminate the bribing culture.

25,000 notes were printed and distributed to mobilize an opposition towards corruption. More than one million notes have been circulated since 2007.

Simple, creative ideas not always work when the fight is against government officials in countries where corruption is deeply rooted. It is, however, a step forward to change social norms that nourish corrupt acts.  

The zero rupee note might not have monetary value, but it surely has moral value.

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