Gurkha veterans reject pension hike offer of the UK government

  • ‘The announcement does not meet our demands and does not make us equal to the British nationals working in the UK army,’ a former Gurkha officer said
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Mar 9, 2019-

The British government on Thursday announced it would increase the pension scheme for the Brigade of Gurkhas who joined the service before 2007 by up to 34 percent, but hours within the decision was announced, Gurkha veterans rejected the offer, calling it a piecemeal approach.

British Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, made an announcement in London for an increased support package for 22,000 Gurkha veterans and their families, according to a statement issued by the British Ministry of Defence.

The announcement was made two weeks after Lancaster’s Nepal visit and a year after a tripartite technical committee report was prepared by a panel including members from the two governments and representatives of the Gurkha veterans.

“The veterans, who all joined the Brigade of Gurkhas before 2007, will benefit from a £15 million [Rs2.2 billion] increase in the Gurkha Pension Scheme. While the increased remuneration will vary depending on an individual’s circumstances, veterans could receive increases of up to 34 percent in their pensions and with the increases being backdated to 1 January 2016, Gurkha pensioners will receive a total of £46m [Rs6.7 billion] extra this financial year,” the British government said in its statement.

But Gurkha veterans said the offer is not acceptable to them, and it is not in line with the findings of the technical report submitted to both the governments last year.

“As we have been demanding, a high-level committee should be formed to implement the report and in line with its recommendation, all pension schemes and other facilities should be available,” said Krishna Bahadur Rai, chairman of the Gurkha Satyagraha Committee, the umbrella body of the agitating veterans. “Otherwise, such a piecemeal approach is not acceptable to us.”

The Gurkha Veterans also wrote separate letters to the prime ministers of Nepal and the United Kingdom, urging them to expedite talks to address their grievances and demands as suggested by a joint technical team.

Lancaster visited Nepal last month and met with President Bidya Devi Bhandari and presented the annual report of the Brigade of Gurkhas.

The British minister of state also met with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepal’s foreign and defence ministers, and the chief of the Nepal Army.

Alongside the increased pension pay, the British defence ministry also announced a new £25 million (Rs3.6 billion) investment over the next ten years, for medical support to veterans living in Nepal. This new investment will be delivered in partnership with the Gurkha

Welfare Trust, a charity which provides a range of support to Gurkha veterans in Nepal, including via a series of regional healthcare facilities.

“This pension increase for Gurkha veterans, alongside long-term funding for healthcare support in Nepal, will make a difference to the lives of Gurkha veterans and their families. I have huge respect for the Gurkhas, who have been important to the British military for more than 200 years, and I hope will be for many years to come,” Lancaster said in the statement.

Rai, representing the veterans, said that both the governments should respect the 1947 tripartite agreement between Nepal, India and British governments that assured that all perks, remuneration, facilities and pension scheme to the Nepali citizens working in the British and Indian Armies will be equal to the British and Indian nationals.

“The announcement made by the British government does not meet our demands and does not make us equal to the British nationals working in the UK army,” said SB Ghising, general secretary of the Former Gurkhas Joint Satyagraha Struggle Committee. “Since there is an acceptable report submitted to both governments last year, now the onus lies on Nepal government to form a dialogue team.”

Ghising said the group would continue to oppose the piecemeal approach and plan to announce a new protest programme on March 18.

Published: 09-03-2019 09:43

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