An Indian engineer has created the zero-rupee note, a unique tool in the battle against corruption. Bearing the likeness of Gandhi, the zero-rupee note appears similar to a real 50-rupee note except that the "5" has been removed, leaving the "0" behind. The note can be handed over to crooked bureaucrats seeking an improper payment, to both shame the official and protest the demand for a bribe.
The notes are the brainchild of Vijay Anand, who first distributed his protest currency at colleges in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to encourage students to reject corrupt requests. Anand formed the 5th Pillar, a non-profit group committed to improving government integrity and spreading thousands of zero-rupee notes across India to foster a grassroots protest against low-level corruption. Anand recently told the international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he was confident the notes "will change the way people think and act in the coming years." He targets school groups to drive home his message for future generations.
More than one million of the notes – each carrying the words "I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe" in one of five languages – have been handed out. And Anand’s program has spread to include the currencies of 200 countries from Abkhazia to Zimbabwe. But Anand also has a broader agenda of raising public awareness on corruption, and he has spearheaded programs and publications across India to raise awareness of the tools available to hold public officials accountable for corrupt acts. Anti-corruption experts credit awareness and transparency as major factors that help change a society’s attitude toward corruption. Anand’s innovative approach provides a great example of what a single person can do to advance this effort.
Gregory A. Paw