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The Zero Rupee Note

Back in school we’d done our share of campaigns relating to various social causes which generally dealt with awareness building among our fellow students. Interning at an NGO was my first hands-on experience on dealing with societal problems. Though my job mainly included analyzing data and making reports, it also gave me an insight into how these institutions work and more importantly the extent of their impact on the society. Also, since I was away from home for the first time in life, it was quite an experience handling stuff on my own. One day, I had to get some official documents verified at a public office and the official demanded a bribe. It was a petty amount but it sure got me riled up and I got into an argument with the officer. Eventually I didn’t have to pay in the end but it was quite an experience for me, especially when the request was so frank and my so very utterly helpless feeling.

In fact, a 2005 study done by Transparency International (TI) in India found that more than 50% of the people had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office. Several NGOs fighting this disease have sprung up. Collectively they’ve succeeded to a certain extent in bringing about a change in the attitude and mindset of the people. The RTI has empowered the common man to legally question the tasks performed by a public office. The onus is on the citizen now and his cause needn’t be taken up by an NGO. I believe in change at a grass root level. And it doesn’t always have to be initiated by those at the top of the ladder. The 5th Pillar, an international NGO with the Indian HQ in Chennai has a unique concept of ‘zero pay for public services’. You may think about the futility of this very obvious statement but have a look at the zero rupee note right below. 



                                     Zero rupee note- A social ally

When a public servant encounters a common man thrusting this note towards him, it becomes a mark of silent protest and an assertion of the fact that he is aware and can’t be exploited. More importantly, people are willing to use the note. The NGO has opened up a path that can pave the way for relatively simple ideas like the zero rupee notes to turn into a powerful social statement against petty corruption.


For more information, check out their official website-http://india.5thpillar.org/


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