Fighting Corruption With Zero Rupee Notes

Fighting Corruption With Zero Rupee Notes

`I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe''

Indian mathematicians are credited with the invention of 0. The paradox is that zero is nothing and yet something absolutely crucial. Now India has contributed another lateral concept, the zero value banknotes.

The protest note literally not even worth the paper it is printed on. The question arises why would anyone have to do business with a zero rupee note?  Well they are a means and an ingenious weapon in the fight against corruption. The notes are paid in protest by angry citizens to government functionaries who solicit bribes in return for services which are supposed to be free. India suffers a high level of corruption with Kashmir being no exception. Officials at many levels in government offices and other bureaucracies demand bribes for all sorts of permits and services. Extortion blights the lives of thousands of Kashmiris forced to pay bribes to police or government officials to get things done, whether enrol their child at school, get a driving license or avoiding the attentions of an unscrupulous traffic police officer. With Kashmiri society in midst of moral drift we have come to godless age were corruption is still a headline, but hardly a surprise. And With “CHAI” and” BAKSHISH” culture very prominent in Kashmir, I wonder whether we are also in need  of a zero value note to combat this menace of corruption?

An NGO named 5th Pillar set out the concept of zero rupee notes to counter corruption in an unconventional way. For many Kashmiris, bribing corrupt officials is a kind of daily routine. Experts assume that the total cost of bribes  in India exceeds 50 billion US dollars per year. The concept of "zero rupee notes" campaign encourages citizens to stand up against bribery. People who may have been too fearful to resist corrupt officials can use the Zero Rupee Notes as a polite yet firm protest which, they hope, will shame and even frighten the scammers into honesty. The zero-rupee note was conceived by an Indian Satindar Mohan Bhagat, a physics professor at the University of Maryland and the director of Association for India’s Development USA gave people the chance to register a grassroots protest against low-level corruption. The bill, which like all Indian notes is graced with a picture of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi resemble the common 50 rupees note, but their value is zero. It carries 5th Pillar’s email address and phone number and the solemn vow "I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe". The success of the notes lies in the willingness of the people to use them. The founder of 5th pillar Vijay Anand, describes the fake currency as ‘a non-violent weapon of non-co-operation. The organization has distributed over 2.5 million pieces as on Aug 2014, since their inception in 2007 The bills, like other notes in India, carry a picture of Mahatma Gandhi. They also bear contact details for 5th Pillar and a declaration, ‘I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe’.  They are given as a protest and in order to shame the official.  The zero rupee note makes a statement. The person giving it is not just an individual complaining about a bribe; they are part of a wider movement that is fighting corruption across Indian society. The notes are not always effective in deflecting the extortion but overall they are judged a success in the fight against corruption. Thousands of success stories out of the 2.5 million Zero Rupee Notes distributed have been recorded. This concept for use in the fight against corruption has recently been adopted from 5th Pillar to few other nations suffering from endemic government bribery problems including, Yemen, The Zero Cedi Note in Ghana, Benin, Mexico and Nepal


(Ahrar Irshad is an MBA in Retail Services)