Zero Rupee Note
This article is part of the eJournal USA issue "Cultivating Civil Society 2.0 ."
Returning home after starting his own technology firm in the U.S., Vijay Anand was appalled by the corruption in his home state of Tamil Nadu, India. Unwilling to continue the common practice of bribing officials to perform supposedly free, everyday services, Anand founded 5th Pillar, an NGO aimed at empowering Indian citizens to defy and eliminate corruption. Using image-editing software and a website for promotion and distribution, Anand created a powerful weapon to defend citizens from bribe-soliciting officials: the Zero Rupee Note.
The simple piece of paper with no monetary value, designed to look like a 50-rupee note, has proven to be a formidable deterrent to those who receive it. Many have reported that handing over the note emblazoned in English and Tamil with the words "I promise to neither accept, nor give a bribe" has resulted in prompt service and even provoked apologies from receiving officials.
For example, when an elderly woman seeking a land title she needed to send her granddaughter to college handed the Revenue Department official a Zero Rupee Note instead of the bribe he had requested, the official not only immediately granted her title, but also offered her his chair and brought her a cup of tea!
The Zero Rupee campaign has been so successful that in 2008, 5th Pillar launched ZeroCurrency.org, where anyone can download zero currency notes from 196 countries.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)