Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Residents of many foreign countries are resigned to having to pay extra for government services and to smooth daily transactions such as registering a birth, getting a driving licence or avoiding the attentions of an unscrupulous traffic officer. Now the Economist reports that an anti-corruption measure started in India, the zero-rupee note is now attracting worldwide attention in the fight against bribery. The zero-rupee notes look roughly like 50-rupee ($0.80) notes and people are encouraged to hand them to corrupt officials, signaling resistance to sleaze. The bill, which like all Indian notes is graced with a picture of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, carries 5th Pillar's email address and phone number and the solemn vow "I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe". Zero Rupee Notes are distributed by 5th Pillar volunteers in railway stations, bus stations, market places to raise awareness about bribery and remind the public of their rights and alternative solutions that are otherwise available. "Corruption is one of the greatest barriers to development," says physics professor Vijay Anand who came up with the idea. "We are at the awareness-creation stage of our campaign. And we need to overcome what has become a poisonous cultural habit. It will take three to four decades." The idea is catching on: campaigners from Argentina, Nepal, Mexico and Benin have been in touch asking for details and Malaysia and Yemen are mulling similar projects. Shaazka Beyerle, an expert on civil resistance campaigns, says that using the zero-rupee note shows a person’s affiliation with a larger movement which cannot be brushed aside by one angry official. Ravi Sundar gave one example where a tax official refused to process documents unless he paid her 500 rupees. "I handed over the zero-rupee note which I always keep in my pocket," says Sundar. "She was afraid and didn't want to take it. She completed the job immediately and said she was sorry and asked me not to take it forward."
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