In the era of 0% interest, a bribe of Rs 0.0

From Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad:

Coimbatore: Fifth Pillar India, an NGO set up to fight corruption, has printed over 200,000 zero-denomination notes that resemble Indian currency and has begun distributing them around the country. It is asking people to give the notes to anyone demanding a bribe.

The NGO launched its 30-day-30-district campaign, called “Freedom From Corruption”, on August 4 in Chennai and will end it on September 9. It consulted leading lawyers in Chennai before printing the “zero rupee note”, which resembles a Rs 50 note in colour and is slightly bigger than a Rs 1,000 note.

“Instead of the usual ‘I promise to pay the bearer a sum of x rupees’ pledge on a currency note, the replica will carry the pledge ‘I promise neither to accept nor give bribes,’” Fifth Pillar India president (operations) M. Vijayanand said.

As the note is being distributed across the country, the pledge is printed in the respective State languages. “The notes are aimed at sending across the message that enough is enough and we are not willing to pay any more bribes,” he said.

A software professional from the City who founded the NGO in Madras many years ago conceived the idea as he felt corruption was a big issue and the zero currency notes would drive home the message. He is currently working in the US and visits India now and then.

The zero rupee note does not carry any government symbols or emblems. The watermark, which is characteristic of a currency note, is absent and the notes are devoid of the signature of the RBI governor. A distinct circular seal on the notes states: “This is not a currency note.”

The notes are already in circulation in Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. A 24-hour call centre will be set up in Chennai to help people who need assistance dealing with corrupt officials or authorities. The call centre will empower the public to use the Right to Information Act. The service centre will register complaints on corruption and make sure that justice is served, Vijayanand added.