The zero rupee
The Economist reports on a brilliant Indian idea to fight corruption that seems actually to work.
The idea is that when asked for a bribe, you hand over a zero-rupee note which looks just like normal currency but says “Eliminate corruption at all levels. Zero rupees. I promise to neither accept nor give bribe.”
Apparently this so shames the bribe-seekers that they stop:
One official in Tamil Nadu was so stunned to receive the note that he handed back all the bribes he had solicited for providing electricity to a village. Another stood up, offered tea to the old lady from whom he was trying to extort money and approved a loan so her granddaughter could go to college.
The concept was invented by an expatriate physics professor who was irritated on returning home by incessant demands for bribes:
He gave the notes to the importuning officials as a polite way of saying no. Vijay Anand, president of an NGO called 5th Pillar, thought it might work on a larger scale.
He had 25,000 zero-rupee notes printed and publicised to mobilise opposition to corruption. They caught on: his charity has distributed 1m since 2007.
There is more about 5th Pillar’s work here, and here at its associated site Zero Currency are images of a similar anti-corruption note for each country in the world, along with its corruption perception ranking.