In India, Fake Money Is Payback

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In India, fake money is payback

Paying bribes to officials at all levels of government is common in India, but an advocacy group for the poor came up with a way to fight back: Make money worth nothing more than the paper it is printed on.

India's Zero Rupee Note

The Zero Rupee note reads: "Eliminate Corruption At All Levels," and "I Promise I Never Accept or Give Bribes." Find out more at

The organization 5th Pillar distributes the zero rupee “protest note” to low-income citizens who can’t afford to pay the daily bribes demanded from them.

The fake currency looks similar to a 50-rupee bill but features a zero for the denomination and the pledge, “I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe.” Volunteers give out the bills anywhere an official would be looking for a handout, such as hospitals or railway stations.

According to Britain’s Telegraph, more than 1 million zero-rupee notes have been printed in five languages. Soliciting bribes is an imprisonable offense in India, but most citizens comply with the requests to avoid problems. Zero-rupee supporters say the bill is designed to be handed to anyone who asks for a bribe and is a simple way to stand against corruption.

Transparency International’s annual report estimates 4 million Indians pay bribes each year for licenses and other basic services, according to the Telegraph.

—Jeff Raderstrong is a Washington, D.C., writer who blogs at

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