MOSCOW -- Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin Children’s Rights Commissioner, has proposed creating volunteer brigades of elderly men and women -- which he described as “pensioner patrols” -- to keep an eye on troubled families and report on potentially disastrous health and safety violations.
Speaking to the Russian News Service on January 9, Astakhov said such brigades could be formed by municipal authorities to patrol neighborhoods across the country and would help avert accidents and disasters caused by negligence or abuse.
He made the comments after a fire tore through a residential building in a village in the central Russian region of Tatarstan, killing five children and their mother. A 47-year-old man described as the head of the family of eight was hospitalized with burns to 75 percent of his body.
“If only there were supervision,” Astakhov said.
“Make patrols,” he said. “We have a huge resource, and if we mobilized them correctly, and used pensioners, who sit at home and simply do nothing, to make volunteer brigades that would go around, look out for security, for fire safety -- there are many ways like this.”
“They have this in America, by the way,” he added.
Russia returned to work on January 11 after a 10-day national holiday for New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas -- a period that was peppered with deadly crimes and accidents. Critics of the holiday say it is too long, and that people turn to alcohol to alleviate their boredom.
In his comments, Astakhov appeared to acknowledge that the long holiday can be a threat to survival for some families in Russia.
“You answer for the people who live near you,” he said of members of the proposed patrols. “If you have been chosen, if you have given the trust of the people, the citizens of this municipality, then you answer for them and for their security -- so that they stay alive during these holidays,” said Astakhov.