How do you help people fight petty corruption in their country? An NGO called 5th Pillar has come up with an ingenious idea that works in India: A zero rupee note. More than one million have been given out. Public officials recoil when citizens hand them one.
(5th Pillar President Vijay) Anand explained that a number of factors contribute to the success of the zero rupee notes in fighting corruption in India. First, bribery is a crime in India punishable with jail time. Corrupt officials seldom encounter resistance by ordinary people that they become scared when people have the courage to show their zero rupee notes, effectively making a strong statement condemning bribery. In addition, officials want to keep their jobs and are fearful about setting off disciplinary proceedings, not to mention risking going to jail. More importantly, Anand believes that the success of the notes lies in the willingness of the people to use them. People are willing to stand up against the practice that has become so commonplace because they are no longer afraid: first, they have nothing to lose, and secondly, they know that this initiative is being backed up by an organization—that is, they are not alone in this fight.
The full story over at the World Bank’s Public Sphere blog is definitely worth a read.
Hat tip: Ana Nelson