Bribes be gone. The Zero Rupee note combats corruption.
Corruption is rampant in India. It’s a day-to-day affair. Regardless of wealth or social status, a person in India can’t live without paying a bribe for a birth certificate, a passport, enrolling a student in public school, or any of the mundane but necessary activities others might take for granted. 99% of India’s population is impacted by these bribes. In fact, based on an index from Transparency International, India ranks 84th in the world when it comes to corruption.
But Vijay Anand believes it doesn’t have to be that way. Why do Indian citizens need to put up with this abuse of public trust for private gain? That’s why he started 5th Pillar, an organization dedicated to providing everyday citizens with tools to help them eliminate corruption throughout society, and more specifically, through the Zero Rupee note. Disseminated throughout India, these bills are “non-violent weapons of non-cooperation” that give people who may have been afraid to raise their voice, a convenient and simple mechanism to refuse bribery without fear or shame. While the bill looks like typical currency on one side, the other side provides training on how to use India’s Right of Information Act to demand government accountability.
Thus far, 1.5 million Zero Rupee notes have been distributed in the past few years. While success stories of combating bribery throughout the country abound, there’s still a long way to go before this phenomenon creates a country-wide societal shift. Until then, Anand will continue to overhaul the cultural acceptance of bribery by focusing his efforts on educating students. His hope is that their parents, whose behaviors tend to be more ingrained, will listen to their children and flash the Zero Rupee note the next time someone tries to pull a fast one.
(Photo credit: Kris Krüg)
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