Indian NGO fights corruption with Zero rupee note

5th Pillar, an Indian NGO, came up with the idea of printing a zero rupee currency note as a tool to help Indians achieve the goal of zero corruption. The note is a way for people to say NO to corruption without the fear of facing an encounter with persons in authority.

A zero rupee note is a type of fantasy money issued in India as a means of helping to fight systemic political corruption. An Indian U of Maryland physics prof came up with these zero rupee notes that Indians can slip to officials who demand bribes. 5th Pillar is the NGO that produces the notes, and they’re available for download in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

The notes are paid in protest by angry citizens to government functionaries who solicit bribes in return for services which are supposed to be free. Zero rupee notes, which are made to resemble the regular 50 rupee banknote of India, have been distributed in over 1.3 million pieces since their inception in 2007. When someone is asked for a bribe, he or she can simply take out the zero rupee currency note and hand it over. This lets the other person know that no money will be handed over for the performance of services required by law or to give or take money to do something illegal. Along the way, the organization, 5th Pillar, has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.

The founder of 5th Pillar, Mr Vijay 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 zero-rupee notes diffuse the crime by acknowledging it.

Further information


Partnership types

Advocacy of global issues; Standards and guidelines development; Provision of goods

Regions / countries / territories

Asia: India

Global issues

Anti-corruption, illicit drugs and law enforcement