Paying a Bribe with Zero

In India, petty corruption is pervasive. Its citizens often face situations where they are asked to pay bribes for public services that should be provided free. The 5th Pillar is advocating for paying the bribe with a zero-rupee note.

According Vijay Anand, president of the 5th Pillar, the idea is credited to an expatriate Indian physics professor from the University of Maryland who was traveling back home. He found himself harassed by endless extortion demands and thought of the notes as a polite way of saying “no.” The 5th Pillar took the idea to the next level and has distributed one million of the zero-rupee notes since 2007.

They have been collecting success stories of how the notes have battled bribery: 5th Pillar Success Stories.

5th Pillar is a non profit, non governmental organization aimed at fighting corruption. The name of the group is based on the premise that India already has four pillars of democracy – the legislature, executive, judiciary and the media. “So, any socially conscious, patriotic and well-meaning citizen who abides by laws and puts the nation in front of his personal gains, is a 5th Pillar.”