What Is The Ghatak Platoon?

Indian Army's elite force Ghatak

Ghatak, meaning ‘lethal’ in Hindi, true to its name is one of the two elite forces present in every infantry battalion of the Indian Army that act as shock troops and spearhead assaults ahead of the battalion. In the recent Indo-China skirmish, the Ghatak platoons played a vital role in fighting the Chinese side.

Crux of the Matter

Strengths & Capabilities
Ghatak platoon consists of 20 soldiers in approximately every 350 infantry battalions of the army i.e. nearly a total strength of 7000. Every platoon consists of a Commanding Captain, 2 non-commissioned officers and some specialised soldiers along with assault troopers.

Ghatak Commandos are capable of carrying out tasks such as special reconnaissance, raids on enemy artillery positions and directing artillery and air attacks on targets deep within enemy lines. Their operations are similar to the Ranger Regiments of the US Army and the Commando Ranger Regiments of the Republic of Korea Army.

They undergo a 6-week Commando Training course in Belgaum, Karnataka. There is an upper age limit of 30 years in this 2 phase training of Acclimatization and High Altitude. They are rigorously trained for heliborne assault, rock climbing, mountain warfare, demolitions, bomb diffusion, advanced weapon training, and infantry tactics.

Some of the qualified soldiers are even sent to the High Altitude Warfare School and the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Kashmir. The most physically fit soldiers either volunteer or are selected to be a part of the Ghatak platoon and it is mandatory for all infantry officers to pass the Commando Training Course.

Ghatak Commandos are armed with INSAS Assault Rifles, AKM Assault Rifles, Pika General Purpose Machine Gun, M4 Carbine, B&T MP9 Submachine Gun, IWI Tavor TAR-21 Assault Rifles, Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle, SVD Dragunov Sniper Rifle, MP5 Submachine Gun and INSAS Light Machine Guns.

They are equipped with standard-issue camouflage and body armour along with sniper teams, light machine gunners, medics, and radio operators. Depending on the mission, they may carry ropes, climbing gear, grenades, rocket launchers, laser target designators, and night vision equipment.

Other Special Forces
Special Forces of India are organised, trained and equipped to conduct special operations in extreme conditions on land, water and air. Three branches of the India armed forces have separate special forces unit namely: Para SF of Indian Army; MARCOS of Indian Navy and Garuda Commando Force of Indian Air Force.

Para commandos recognised with their maroon beret uniforms were formed in 1966. This regiment has the honour of being conferred the Bravest of Brave distinction. Garuda Commando Force established in 2004 has over 1500 personnel. They have been deployed for UN peacekeeping missions in Congo.

MARCOS also called the Marine Commando Force was formed in 1987 to provide support to amphibious operations. They are also reputedly called the ‘Dadhiwala Fauj’ (The Bearded Army) by militants in Kashmir. Apart from these three forces, Indian forces also include COBRA Force, Special Frontier Force (SPF), and National Security Guard (NSG).

Stories of Bravery
Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked the Army’s 12th Brigade in Uri on 18 September 2016. After which the Ghatak platoon from 6th Bihar and 10th Dogra battalions led by 4th and 9th battalions of the Special forces conducted surgical strikes on terror camps in PoK. The Ghatak platoons were used in the flanking role as they are well versed with the areas across the LoC and are better acclimatized.

Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguruse was the Ghatak platoon commander during a night operation during Operation Vijay in 1999 during the Kargil War. After sustaining a bullet wound, he continued the operation and shot two men and killed two others using his knife in hand to hand combat. He was posthumously awarded the Mahavir Chakra.

In the very recent clash between India and China, the Ghatak commandos were part of the patrolling and backup team on the LAC.

  • Lieutenant Colonel Mitali Madhumita, commissioned in 2000, is the first woman officer in India to receive a gallantry award, who received the Sena Medal in 2011 for exemplary courage shown during the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul by terrorists in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • General Bipin Chandra Joshi, PVSM, AVSM, ADC was the 17th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army. General B. C. Joshi has been a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service of the most exceptional order. He gave the name to Ghatak Platoon.
  • INSAS. an abbreviation of INdian Small Arms System is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun (LMG). The INSAS assault rifle is the standard infantry weapon of the Indian Armed Forces and manufactured by the Ordnance Factories Board.

Kurzarbeit – A Realistic German Approach To UBI?

Kurzarbeit - A Realistic German Approach To UBI?

The state-funded German safety net Kurzarbeit is a social insurance program whereby employers reduce their employees’ working hours instead of laying them off. It has ensured safety to millions of workers amidst the pandemic.

Crux of the Matter

Under Kurzarbeit, the German government compensates around 60% of the foregone net wages of an employee & 67% if the employee is a parent. The program can be initiated when employers need to cut wage costs and working times amid economic slowdown or any crisis like the COVID-19.

Main Features
Kurzarbeit is a crisis management tool to protect workers’ income and support aggregate demand. Since workers do not lose their jobs, they are secured while companies also retain their human capital.

The strong performance of employment during the global financial crisis bolsters domestic demand, with stable labour income supporting private consumption, and reduced the need for precautionary savings; thus opening the way to a rapid recovery.

A worker receives 60% of his or her pay for the hours not worked, whereas receives full payment for the hours worked. For example, a worker would only face a 10% salary loss for a 30% reduction in hours. In 2009, the German government was highly appreciated for saving nearly 500,000 jobs and keeping the unemployment rate below 8% during the recession using Kurzarbeit.

It has provided greater income protection during Covid-19. It provides 60% income for the first 3 months of reduced working hours, 70% income from 4th to 6th months, and 80% income from the 7th month. The maximum duration of the program is 21 months. During the pandemic, the coverage was expanded to temporary workers as well. Kurzarbeit can be applied for if employees’ working hours are reduced by more than 10% compared to 30% before Covid-19.

Critics say that Germany ‘s excessive reliance on Kurzarbeit can potentially reduce flexibility in the labor market, and increase the divide between workers in more and less-protected segments of the labor market.

Kurzarbeit subsidies could discourage restructuring of underperforming companies.

Jacob Kirkegaard, Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Following the pandemic, the German government has made this scheme more flexible, more attractive to employers, and more generous to employees while expanding coverage across sectors and across different types of jobs.

Universal Basic Income
On the contrary to Kurzarbeit, UBI is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to every adult regardless of economic and employment status. UBI was proposed in the Economic Survey of India published in January 2017.

Incorporating UBI would bring more people into the formal banking system and also increase rural access to formal credit. Basic income increases the resilience to economic shocks but also increases the risks of a rise in inflation due to increased demand.

Current social welfare schemes like MNREGA, Ujjwala, Awas Yojana, etc. cost India about 4-5% of GDP, but UBI is expected to cost almost 6-7% of GDP. Experts say the ongoing social welfare schemes focus on long-term improvement on human development, rural infrastructure, employment and can’t be substituted by cash transfer. Seeing Germany as an example one can say that Kurzarbeit will prove to be highly expensive in the Indian context.

While some consider UBI as a universal right for everyone; some argue whether it should be distributed to rich or not. Many also believe that money should not be given to those who do not contribute to society through their labor and it is feared that employed workers would drop out of the labor force leading to encouraging idleness.

The idea of UBI is not new but in the past few years, it has been discussed widely on global platforms as a means of redistributing income. Unlike Kurzarbeit, UBI is based on the idea that society, as a first priority, should look out for its people’s survival.

  • A pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE), in Australia and the United States, is a withholding tax on income payments to employees. Amounts withheld are treated as advance payments of income tax due. They are refundable to the extent they exceed tax as determined on tax returns.
  • On 4 October 2013, Swiss activists celebrated the successful collection of more than 125,000 signatures, forcing the government to hold a referendum in 2016 on the decision to incorporate the concept of basic income in the federal constitution. They did so by dumping 8 Million coins on a public square in Bern, each coin representing each person of Switzerland’s population. 
  • If unpaid care work performed by women were compensated at even the minimum wage around the world, this would boost measured global economic output by $12 trillion. Hence the Scottish economist Ailsa McKay argues that basic income is a way to promote gender equality.

What Happened At Galwan?

What happened at Galwan valley?

Several speculations were being made over the recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops on June 15 in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley at Patrol Point 14. Following the Army press briefings and conversations with Army personnel in the Valley, the things have become more clear and for a better explanation, it is broken down in 3 phases.
Complete Coverage: India And China Encircling Each Other

Crux of the Matter

Phase 1
Ten days prior to the clash, lieutenant general-level talks were held in which it was proven that a Chinese observation post was on the Indian side of LAC along the Galwan River. It was decided to create a de facto ‘buffer zone’ and the Chinese dismantled the post following the disengagement at Patrol Point 14 where both armies had mobilised very close to the LAC.

The process decided during the previous meeting for disengagement had started from Galwan Valley. It was to be implemented after meetings between the commanders on the ground. During the implementation process, both sides clashed over the existence of a Chinese Observation Post in the ‘buffer zone’.

The 16 Bihar infantry battalion was deployed in the valley with its commanding Officer Colonel B Santosh Babu who even held talks with his Chinese counterpart a day after the Chinese dismantled the camp. On June 14, the camp unexpectedly re-emerged overnight and on June 15 Colonel Babu decided to personally lead a team wondering whether there has been a mistake.

The battalion was friendly and familiar with the Chinese officers due to regular meetings but when Colonel Babu along with 35 men reached they noticed fresh faces who were deployed for the first time there. The new unit was very aggressive and upon questioning, a Chinese soldier pushed the Colonel backward thereby raising the heat and temper.

Seeing the Commanding Officer being disrespected and assaulted the Indian team pounced on the Chinese leading to a proper fist-fight lasting for around 30 minutes with injuries on both sides. The Indian team prevailed and also burned the Chinese post to ashes. Colonel Babu asked the injured men to return back and asked for backup. This incident raised suspicions in his mind about more movements on the Chinese side.

Phase 2
Colonel Babu’s suspicions were correct and more troops were waiting in positions and as soon as they arrived, large stones began to land. Around 9 PM (on June 15) Colonel Babu was hit by a large stone on his head and he fell into the Galwan River. This led to the second brawl of fighting with the use of metal spiked clubs by the Chinese lasting for nearly 45 minutes until both sides disengaged.

The bodies of Colonel Babu and other jawans were carried back to the Indian side, while the rest of the Indian team remained on the Chinese side taking stock of the situation. And when things were at an emotional peak the Indian side heard the noise of quadcopter drone which became an immediate trigger for the third brawl.

The Indian backup comprising of Ghatak platoons who lead attacks and function as ‘shock troops’ from both the 16 Bihar as well as 3 Punjab Regiment arrived in large numbers. As suspected, the Chinese side also called a backup and the Indian team had to step deeper into the Chinese side to ensure they didn’t let large numbers of Chinese troops get close to the LAC.

Phase 3
The drone was moving through the valley, possibly using night vision or infrared cameras to map the damage and the third phase began around 11 PM. Troops continued fighting along the ridgelines and the intensity of the fight led to men on both sides fall into the narrow Galwan river having a sub-zero temperature.

After 5 hours of fighting, Indian and Chinese combat medics arrived to move their dead and injured and the remains of soldiers were exchanged. The physical separation of the fighting groups led to 10 Indian men comprising of 2 Majors, 2 Captains, and 6 Jawans being held back the Chinese side even after the disengagement.

Indian army lost 20 of its brave soldiers and Chinese casualties were more than roughly double of ours. The chaos in the darkness led to several injured men from both sides remaining with the other and by dawn on June 16, the Indian troops withdrew back across the LAC. The Major Generals from both sides then ensured that their men were provided medical treatments.

The tactical debrief report records that the Chinese troops involved in the brawl were not the regular unit deployed involved in multiple rounds of talks previously. It is suspected that there is larger intent to capture Indian territories by using more aggressive, less situationally acclimatized troops to spearhead an aggressive action.

In order to reduce tensions along the LAC, XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and his Chinese counterpart are conducting talks in search of a breakthrough. Currently, the disengagement process has begun and the Patrol point 14 is at peace.

  • A Ghatak Platoon, or Ghatak Commandos, is a reconnaissance platoon that is present in every infantry battalion in the Indian Army. Their name was given to them by Gen. Bipin Chandra Joshi. They act as shock troops and spearhead assaults ahead of the battalion.
  • The Seventeen Point Agreement is the document by which the delegates of the 14th Dalai Lama, sovereign of the de facto state of Tibet, reached an agreement in 1951 with the Central People’s Government of the newly established the People’s Republic of China on affirming Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
  • Maryul of Ngari was a west Tibetan kingdom based in modern-day Ladakh and Tibet Autonomous Region. The Maryul kingdom was based in Shey and evolved into the modern Ladakh.

A Different Corona In The News – Solar Eclipse 2020

Solar eclipse on 21 June, 2020 in India

The onset of Summer Solstice into this decade’s 23rd solar eclipse and first one of this year on Sunday June 21, giving enthusiastic skywatchers a magnificent view. This ring of fire spread across Africa, Asia and other 12 parts of the world.

Crux of the Matter

Ring of Fire this 2020
A solar eclipse is witnessed when the moon is aligned between the Sun and Earth, blocking the light received by the Earth from the Sun but the annual one happens only when the Moon is the farthest from the Earth. This makes the moon looks smaller and does not block the entire view of the Sun creating a “ring of fire” effect.

The coronavirus pandemic had its impact on the eclipse this year. With gatherings banned, special events organized at observatories and planetariums were canceled across the world. However, Astro-lovers chose to stay at home and enjoy the view with their own DIY pinhole cameras and solar filter equipments.

People eager to watch the eclipse in their terrace, while maintaining social distance

Which One Is This Corona Now?
The corona or the crown is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere and is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface, which makes it difficult to be seen by the naked eye. This corona can thus only be seen during a total solar eclipse.

What’s Special About This Eclipse?
The annual solar eclipse coincidentally came on the longest day of this year, summer solstice, when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. This happens once in each hemisphere, twice yearly.

Annular Solar Eclipse as seen from Mehsana, Gujrat

While most seasons have two eclipses, one lunar and one solar, this one has three and this solar eclipse was the second of that trio. The first lunar eclipse came on June 5 and the final of the three, another lunar eclipse, will occur on July 4-5. These lunar eclipses were penumbral that create only a dark shading on the moon’s face.

Beyond Being A Pretty Phenomenon
Solar eclipses enable researchers to measure the diameter of the Sun accurately and to search for variations in that diameter over long time scale. Scientists can determine with precision the shape of the Moon, which helps in the prediction of ephemeride, the trajectory of naturally occurring astronomical objects. Geophysicists measure eclipse phenomena induced in the high terrestrial atmosphere.

Eclipses Are Much More

Discovery of Helium in India, 1868

French astronomer Jules Janssen noted the presence of a bright line in the yellow part of the sun’s spectrum, which indicated the presence of Helium gas along with common hydrogen. Thus came the name ‘Helios’, Greek for Sun.

Einstein’s Eclipse, 1919
One of the major components of Albert Einstein’s then lesser-known theory of relativity was the bending of starlight by the gravity of the Sun. To test his prediction, U.K. astrophysicist Arthur Eddington took pictures of a cluster of stars in the region around the sun, whose observations confirmed the theory, turning the German physicist into an instant international figure.

The total solar eclipse of 1919 that was a turning point for Einstein’s career
  • An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than the Sun’s, blocking most of the Sun’s light and causing the Sun to look like an annulus (ring). An annular eclipse appears as a partial eclipse over a region of the Earth thousands of kilometers wide.
  • A corona is an aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun and other stars. The Sun’s corona extends millions of kilometers into outer space and is most easily seen during a total solar eclipse. Corona is derived from Latin for Crown which in turn is derived from Ancient Greek word for ‘garland, wreath’.
  • The magnitude of eclipse is the fraction of the angular diameter of a celestial body being eclipsed. The magnitude of a partial or annular solar eclipse is always between 0.0 and 1.0, while the magnitude of a total solar eclipse is always greater than or equal to 1.0.

India And The Elusive UNSC Permanent Seat

India And The Elusive UNSC Permanent Seat

Garnering 184 votes out of the 192 votes India won the election for the non-permanent seat in the prestigious United Nations Security Council (UNSC) along with Ireland, Mexico, and Norway. For the 8th time, India will be becoming a part of the UNSC for 2021-22.

Crux of the Matter

Starting from 1st January 2021, India will begin its two-year term at the UNSC which is responsible for maintaining world peace and ensuring security. Previously, India has been a part of the UNSC 7 times as a non-permanent member for the years 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.

Structure of the UNSC
The United Nations Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations comprising of 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members. It was created after World War II to address the failings of the League of Nations. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America having veto power are the permanent members.

The remaining 10 members are elected by the United Nations General Assembly on a regional basis with five replaced each year to serve a term of two years. A retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election and to be approved a member must receive at least two-thirds of all votes cast for that seat.

The regional distribution of seats is as follows: 5 for African and Asian states; 1 for the Eastern European States; 2 for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and 2 for Western European and other States.

Curious Case of China
The idea of a UNSC was first cemented in 1942 when during the Second World War, the US, Soviet Union, the UK, and China signed a short document known as the United Nations Declaration. And after the end of the war in 1945, the UNSC was formed with the four states along with France.

In 1949, a communist revolution changed the leadership in China and the older leadership, headed by Chiang Kai-Shek had escaped to modern-day Taiwan and established the Republic of China (ROC). And the new communist leadership controlled all of Mainland China, thus establishing the People’s Republic of China (PRC). From 1949 to 1971, ROC continued to represent China at the UNSC. And the US or its allies did not recognize PRC as a legitimate state.

India At The UN
India, a founder-member of the UN, is one of the fastest-growing economies and the world’s largest democracy with 1.3 billion population. Over the years India has significantly contributed towards the UN’s endeavors in support of international peace and security.

PM Jawahar Lal Nehru always believed that the UNSC could emerge as a medium of resolving interstate conflicts. In order to replace China, India was offered a permanent seat at the UNSC, each by US & USSR but PM Nehru declined the offer both the times saying he did not want India to get embroiled in hazardous Cold War conflicts and become a pawn in the superpowers’ great game risking its own security.

India was certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the security council but it would be dangerous for this to come at the cost of China.

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Former Prime Minister, India

Though this decision did not harm us initially, its effect was visible once China started cornering India and misusing its veto power. India – the world’s largest democracy, home to over 15% of the world’s population, and possessing nuclear weapons – has taken a global leadership role numerous times to champion the concept of ‘peaceful co-existence’ making it the least questionable and most deserving to be incorporated as a permanent member.

Over the past decades, different countries have vouched for India’s permanent seat and India has garnered support from countries like the USA, UK, Germany, Australia, and Nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, etc. UNSC reflects a post- World War II framework that has become obsolete and India’s case for permanent membership is a veritable interest in the changed geopolitics of the 21st century.

India’s contribution to the working of the UN has been substantial and despite being a founding member of the UN, the permanent membership has always remained elusive.

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). The other 5 are – the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the UN Secretariat.
  • UNSC held its first session on 17 January 1946. Although the Security Council was largely paralyzed in its early decades by the Cold War between the US and USSR and their allies, the Council generally was only able to intervene in unrelated conflicts.
  • China’s seat was originally held by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government, the Republic of China. However, the Nationalists were forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan in 1949, during the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese Communist Party assumed control of mainland China, thenceforth known as the People’s Republic of China.