Gurkha veterans plan hunger strikes in UK pension fight
London: Britain-based Gurkha war veterans are planning hunger strikes "unto death" in their fight for equal pensions.
Their campaign dates back to when Gurkha pensions were increased in 2007 but the hike did not apply to those who left the army before the Royal Gurkha Rifles were moved from Hong Kong to the UK in 1997.
According to The Times, one group of Gurkhas now plans to undertake an initial 13-day hunger strike before Remembrance Sunday on November 10 held to mark the end of World War I with one day for each Victoria Cross won by Gurkhas since they were first recruited to the army in 1815.
"In April we gave the government a six-month ultimatum that we would do this. Now we are preparing to go really for hunger strikes," said Gyanraj Rai, a veteran who will lead a second group of strikes hunger "unto death".
Before the 2007 increase, Gurkha pensions, based on the cost of living in Nepal where most of them retired, were about a third of those for British veterans.
In 2010, the Gurkhas lost a test case for equal pensions for those who left before the cut-off date. The year before, all Gurkha ex-servicemen gained the right to reside in Britain.
Rai, who served for 19 years, said that like many veterans living in the UK, they faced great hardship. "This is the only option I have left. We will follow Mahatma Gandhi?s example," he said in reference to the upcoming strikes.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Gurkhas have been "fairly treated" in respect to their pensions.
"The Gurkha Pension Scheme is a very fair scheme, a view upheld by the Court of Appeal. For most Gurkhas it provides a pension at least as good, and in many cases better, than that given to their British counterparts with identical periods of service," he said.
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