The new consideration by the British ministry of defence to carry out a wide-ranging review of the terms and conditions of British Gurkhas’ service to that island nation is indeed an encouraging development. The earlier concession for British Gurkhas retiring after the UK handed Hong Kong over to Beijing regarding British citizenship eligibility had evoked mixed reactions in different quarters. But there is no denying it was one such time when some justice was meted out to the fabled warriors, though those on the receiving end will have something else to say. The Gurkha community has long rued that it has not been given the same treatment as that reserved by the UK’s ministry of defence for the British defence personnel. British defence secretary Geoff Hoon’s announcement that these areas of discontent would be seriously looked into in order “to ensure that such differences are absolutely justifiable” rightly seeks to address the concern that has even seen legal battles in the British courts.
It would be repetitive to stress that the Gurkhas have now served Britain for nearly 200 years. But among many other things, that has also served as the bedrock of Nepal-British ties. As dictated by time and shrinking British colonies, the number of Gurkhas recruited by Britain has gone down over the years. Be that as it may, it must also be acknowledged that the UK, amid growing discontent in the Gurkha ranks over the said disparity, has revised some facets of the terms and conditions for the Gurkha folks entitling them to a much fairer bargain than their predecessors. Hoon’s latest announcement to reassess the terms, therefore, is to be taken as a step in the right direction — a move towards further strengthening the time-tested British-Nepal bond. Given that the Gurkha warriors have selflessly served the British, their plea for a fairer emolument and retirement package nonetheless is not unjustified.
It lies perfectly within the realm of reason for anyone to ask for equal treatment on all fronts with one’s counterparts for a job that demands as much input from one group as from the other. The British government, therefore, must look into the disparities, though, it always has had the upper hand in citing the agreements pertaining to the Gurkha recruitment and their salaries and perks thereof. The legacy that the Gurkhas have left behind and the dedication that these men from Nepal have shown to the British Army for such a long time now should be enough for them to merit fairer terms and conditions, including the Gurkha Married Accompanied Service and the right to housing quarters for the married. Justice would be seen to have been done only when the review produces an acceptable solution.