Gurkha veteran slams government during hunger strike
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Gurkhas have served in the British Army around the world since 1947 and even before this, 43,000 Gurkhas gave their lives fighting in the First and Second World Wars.
The petition calls for the Government to “treat Gurkhas fairly and pays them the same pension as other British veterans of the same rank and service.
“Gurkhas served the crown and British yet many Gurkhas and their widows live in poverty in the UK and their relatives are forced into modern slavery in countries like Saudi Arabia.
“We shouldn’t treat our heroes like this. So we are demanding all Gurkha veterans are paid an equal pension to other British veterans. That includes veterans from pre-1997.”
The Gurkha pension scheme is based on Indian Army rates for those with 15 years-service at least and was designed with a retirement in Nepal in mind, where living costs are low relative to the UK.
When, in 2009, all Gurkhas won the right to live in the UK, one would think the pension scheme would have adjusted to factor new living costs in, but this was not the case.
After 13 days, the Gurkha hunger strike outside Downing Street has ended (Image: Getty)
The 1997 date (July 1) is important because this was when Gurkhas ceased to be considered a Far East force and became a UK-based one. This entitled them legally to the same Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) as any other British soldier.
However, this entitlement was only applied to those who were serving on or retired after the July 1, 1997 date, so those who retired before have been left behind.
The Government said: “improvements to pension schemes are not made retrospective” but this has been criticised for treating soldiers differently even though they performed equally important service.
A hunger strike outside Downing Street fighting for the same cause ended yesterday after lasting for 13 days.
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One of the Gurkhas on the hunger strike said he received just £47 a month after he retired while his British counterparts got £800 – a more than sixteen-fold difference.
Today, he receives around £350 a month compared to roughly £1,200 for former British soldiers – an £850 difference.
The group only broke their fast when the Government agreed to talks with the Nepali ambassador next month.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Gurkha veteran Deepak Maskey, 61, hit out at the Government for “penny-pinching” aimed at Gurkha veterans as they face a paltry pension payment in repayment for their military service to Britain.
The online petition is currently sitting on 102,263 signatures at the time of writing. It triggered a government response when it garnered 10,000 signatures which has just come through.
Reaching 100,000 signatures means the matter will be considered for debate in Parliament.
The Government defended the current policy in its response to the petition, saying: “The Government highly values the service of all members of the Armed Forces, including Gurkhas who have a long and distinguished history of service to the UK both here and overseas”.
The Government argued that the Gurkha pension is “very fair” and, although they are different, the policy has been upheld at three judicial reviews since 2003, including one case that went to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Government added: “We are conscious that there are grievances held by some Gurkha veterans, but the Government does not accept that Gurkha pensions are unfair.
“Together with Nepali Embassy officials we have continuously engaged in dialogue with Gurkha veterans’ groups, giving them the opportunity to articulate their grievances.”
Becoming a Gurkha is regarded as one of the toughest processes to go through in any armed force. Trainees have to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying a wicker basket on their back filled with rocks weighing 70lbs.