KATHMANDU, Mar 8: While expressing disappointment over the announcement of British Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster to raise their pension by between 10 percent and 34 percent, agitating ex-British Gurkha veterans, who served prior to 2007, have said that their struggle for parity in pension and other perks as compared to their British counterparts shall continue.
In its first reaction, the agitating Ex-British Gurkha Satyagraha United Struggle Committee said the announcement continues to ignore their demands of equality, while treating them as someone begging for alms. “Our struggle is for equality. Our struggle is addressing the historical injustices meted out to us. We will continue with our planned protest after March 19 if our demands are not addressed,” said General Secretary of the Committee, SB Ghising.
Earlier, the agitating Gurkhas had submitted a memorandum to both Nepal and UK governments to form a high-level government team to negotiate their demands in line with the recommendations made by a tripartite Technical Team. “Our demand is now to form a high-level dialogue team to hold negotiation between the two governments. The team should have representatives from the agitating Gurkhas as well,” said Ghising. “Only the agreements made with such a committee shall be acceptable to us.”
The British minister in his announcement has said that different pension and other perks and benefits to Gurkhas as compared to British servicemen reflected the circumstances of the time and significantly and that such terms of service were voluntarily accepted. He also mentioned that a Gurkha serving for 15 years was entitled to pension, while their British counterpart needed to serve for 22 years to be eligible for pension.
The agitating Gurkhas have maintained that the British government had discriminated against them in their year of service and pension despite the fact that the Tripartite Agreement reached in 1947 clearly mentioned that they will be treated on same footing as their parent army. “The minister has stated that the British Government began ensuring parity in all terms and facilities including salary and pension to Gurkhas since 2007. But he has failed to explain why was there such a huge discrimination between Gurkhas and their British counterparts prior to 2007,” Ghising further said.
The UK Minister said the UK government would invest an extra Rs 2.5 billion a year to increase individual pension of some 13,000 pensioners between 1975 to 2007 by 10 percent to 34 percent. He also announced to provide an additional Rs 3.5 billion for healthcare of Gurkhas in Nepal over the next 10 years.
During his visit to Nepal last month, Minister Lancaster had conveyed to the Nepali side that it was not immediately possible to fulfill the demand to provide compensation for the disparity that Gurkha servicemen in the British army before 2007 faced in their pay, pension and other perks as compared to their British counterparts. He had, however, said that the British side was ready to “progressively” address the demands put forth by the agitating Gurkhas.