April 10, 2014 – In many countries around the world, corruption presents a major problem which harms economy and individuals likewise. To create public awareness and, if necessary, protect individuals in cases of attempted bribery, campaigners in India came up with a new idea in 2007.
The non-profit organisation 5th Pillar started distributing banknotes in their hometown Chennai specifically addressing corrupt officials. Nominal value: 0 rupees. The face resembles the 50-rupees note while the reverse reads strong statements such as, “I will never receive or pay bribe money.” The organisation distributed 25,000 of those banknotes in public places, at wedding ceremonies and other social gatherings. And the idea worked. Estimates say that by 2011, more than 1.3 million banknotes in five of the 22 official languages in India had entered circulation.
5th Pillar’s official homepage tells of the many success stories which resulted from the campaign. One of them comes from Vijay Anand, founder of the organisation. When he was harassed by a police officer, Anand gave him a Zero Rupee Note and remarked that the police officer could use it to pay other corrupt officers without having to spend more money. If the other bribed officer did not fulfil his part of the deal, he could report him to 5th Pillar and the organisation would set off disciplinary proceedings against said officer. The officer was impressed. He felt caught out and slightly embarrassed – and let go of Anand.
The website of 5th Pillar describes the Zero Rupee Note as “a non-violent weapon of non-cooperation against corruption”. The organisation’s mission: “Empower Indians to live corruption free lives.”
Several months ago, the delegation of a Malaysian anti-corruption committee paid a visit to 5th Pillar’s headquarters in order to look into the project more closely. There might soon be more currencies with a “0” nominal value around the globe. As a tourist, you had better look twice in the future when you’re about to take change from a stranger at the airport and run off in a hurry. Even if a bank was to accept the money, it will still be a loss for you.
Why don’t you have a look at 5th Pillar yourself?
Listen to an interview of Vijay Anand as he explains the idea behind the Zero-Rupee-Note.
The Times of India reported on the Malaysian delegation in November 2013.