The worthless banknotes that put an end to bribery
Ladies and gents, a true tale of people power from India, where corruption amongst local government is rife. Simple, mundane, everyday acts - planning regulations, requests concerning land deeds - that should occur without drama or consequence are exploited by officials who will only perform their civil duties if given an incentive. Bribery is seemingly a way of life for the population, but they have a new weapon in their arsenal and dammit, they're going to use it.
On a continent where it's claimed over £3 billion is exchanged in bribes every year, the deterrent that has public officials quaking in their boots is a worthless piece of paper - the zero rupee note:
The concept was conceived by a physics professor who toured India and realised the widespread scale of bribery, then adopted by 5th Pillar, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation aimed at fighting corruption. 5th Pillar began by printing 25,000 of the notes, but demand soared because of the note's effectiveness, and a million have since been distributed.
According to the President of Fifth Pillar, the zero rupee note is having a profound effect on bribery in India:
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. Officials are fearful about setting off disciplinary proceedings, not to mention risking going to jail.
More importantly, 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... they are not alone in this fight.
For people to speak up against corruption that has become institutionalised within society, they must know that there are others who are just as fed up and frustrated with the system. Once they realise that they are not alone, they also realise that this battle is not unbeatable... relatively simple ideas like the zero rupee notes turn into a powerful social statement against petty corruption.