Kathmandu, March 7
Former British Gurkhas have rejected the United Kingdom government’s announcement of an increased support package, stating the announcement does not address their demand for equal treatment.
They said they were firm in their stand that besides providing equal pension, the British government should compensate the entire amount that former and serving Gurkhas did not receive over the years due to discrimination against them in terms of pay, pension and other facilities.
British Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster yesterday announced increased pension funding and investment in medical support for 22,000 Gurkha veterans and their families.
The British Ministry of Defence stated that veterans joining the Brigade of Gurkhas before 2007 would benefit from a £15 million (approximately Rs 2.2 billion) increase in the Gurkha Pension Scheme.
While the increased remuneration will vary depending on an individual’s circumstances, veterans could receive up to 34 per cent extra pension. With the increase being backdated to 1 January 2016, Gurkha pensioners will receive a total of £46 million (approximately Rs 6.7 billion) extra this financial year, read a statement issued by Lancaster.
The ministry also announced a new £25 million (approximately Rs 3.6 billion) investment over the next 10 years for medical support for veterans living in Nepal. The new investment will be delivered in partnership with the Gurkha Welfare Trust, including via a series of regional healthcare facilities.
The UK government’s announcement comes after Lancaster’s recent visit to Nepal, where he met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and some ministers and secretaries. “These are significant sums which reflect the outcome of dialogue with Gurkha veterans and the Government of Nepal,” said Lancaster in the statement.
However, former Gurkhas said they would not accept any offer from the British government unless a ‘negotiated settlement’ was reached through a high-level dialogue committee in line with the ‘Report of The Technical Committee on Gurkha Veterans’ that calls for providing serving and former Gurkhas pay, pension and other facilities equal to those paid to British nationals.
The report was prepared by ‘The Gurkha Technical Committee’ comprising officials from the UK Ministry of Defence and officials from the Embassy of Nepal in the UK, together with representatives of Gurkha veteran groups. It was submitted to both the governments on 22 March 2018.
“This is purely a one-sided, baseless announcement that we reject,” said Krishna Bahadur Rai, coordinator of Gurkha Satyagraha United Struggle Committee.
The committee’s General Secretary SB Ghising wants to know on what basis the British government announced up to 34 per cent hike in their pensions when they had been fighting for equality. He also expressed surprise over medical support for veterans living in Nepal only for the next 10 years. “Does that mean that there won’t be any Gurkhas alive after 10 years?” he questioned.
The British government started providing equal pay and pension to Nepalis in 2007. Since Gurkhas retire after 15 years of service, those who were recruited after 1993 retired after 2007 and became eligible for equal pension. But they were deprived of equal pay and facilities for their service period before 2007, according to Gurkhas.
Moreover, Gurkhas who were recruited from 1975 to 1993 and retired before 2007 were deprived of equal pay, pension and facilities.
Those who served the British Army from 1947 to 1975 when there was no provision for pension were not provided equal pay and facilities, say Gurkhas.
Ex-Gurkhas have said if a high-level talks team comprising representatives from Nepal and UK governments and former Gurkhas is not formed by March 18, they will launch protests.
A version of this article appears in print on March 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.