October 14: Every country has its heroes in every generation, and children, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, point at them. There was a time when becoming a diplomat or a cosmonaut was the most thrilling profession for Russian children. Recognition from others, glamour and adventure – these professions seemed to have it all.

But times have changed and how. Today, the ambition of most Russian children is to have an ear to the ground. They want to be tax commandos above all else today. Tax commandos are smart police officers trained to catch people who do not pay their taxes, reports ‘The Indian Express’.

A new tax academy to train children to be tax commandos has recently opened in Moscow, the Russian capital. It is Russia’s only school of its kind. Children at the academy are given military-style education.

The Young Tax Commandos [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
The Young Tax Commandos [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

Around 139 children between the ages of 10 and 15 are students at the academy, which is known as the Third Moscow Cadet Corps of Tax Police. Most of these children are orphans or children of military and police officers.

“We started this school because we want to change the impression Russian people have of their tax police. They are just doing their preventive job but for some reason society always thinks they are violent,” says the director of the academy.

These children will probably never be out of work, given the high levels of corruption in Russia today. Since the fall of the communist Soviet Union in the early 1990s and the changeover to democracy, successive Russian governments have been unable to govern effectively.

And so almost all areas of life have been taken over by mafias. Being orderly members of society and paying taxes is the last thing on their minds. The biggest dream today seems to be that of making profit by any means.

So it is not surprising that some youngsters even see themselves in the role of a dashing Robin Hood, who is believed to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor, in the England of the Middle Ages. Others just feel it’s a good way to make money.

The military-like training provided by the academy, emphasises on discipline and physical fitness, in anticipation of the running around that the students would have to do when they become officers, no doubt. “This is necessary because the students must be equal to the challenges,” says the director.

Perhaps part of the fascination of the job lies in the power the students know they will wield when they burst through the doors of their suspect. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s statement that the country will come under a “dictatorship of law” will perhaps encourage them even more.

But if the children were to end up becoming little dictators of law, brandishing their authority with glee, then the whole objective of the academy in grooming efficient but decent officers will be lost. The idea of bringing in military style discipline and training to tackle deep problems in society, has never proved to be a good one.

Only when people, and that includes the ruling politicians too, have the courage to look into their lives and see how they encourage misrule, can some change come about.

Otherwise, academies like these may be a very temporary solution to a big problem, but in the long run will only encourage the game of thieves and police that children down the ages have been fond of playing anyway.

592 words | 5 minutes
Readability: Grade 9 (14-15 year old children)
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Filed under: world news
Tags: #russia, #russians, #society

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