Over 500 Gurkhas and their supporters took part in a peaceful demonstration in front of British parliament, Westminster, London, last week calling upon British MPs to support their campaign for pensions equality.
The British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS) had organised the mass lobby on November 10 as part of its campaign for Gurkhas who served before 1997 to receive a pension equal to their UK counterparts. Currently, around 36,000 Gurkha pensioners receive either little or no pension at all.
The mass lobby was an opportunity for Gurkhas to speak face to face with British MPs about why it is just for them to receive the same pensions as the British soldiers they served alongside.
|Gurkha veterans demonstrating in front of the British parliament last week calling for equal pensions (Photo courtesy: BGWS)|
The UK Ministry of Defence has estimated that equal Gurkha pensions would cost £75 million a year. However, the British government estimates the settlement policy will cost between £300-£400 million a year in terms of welfare provision, on the basis of 10,000 to 15,000 Gurkha applicants plus their dependants settling in the UK.
“Retired Gurkhas feel moving to the UK is the only way they can have a decent life. But thousands of Gurkhas moving to the UK will cost the government more in welfare payments than it would to pay equal pensions so Gurkhas could stay in Nepal. This mass migration will have significant implications for the budgets of the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department for Transport. To avoid this, the UK government has a responsibility to resolve the Gurkha pensions issue once and for all,” said Major (Retd.) Dewan, adding, “Paying retired Gurkhas an equal pension would actually save the government money, as they would then be able to stay in Nepal with dignity, instead of moving to the UK in order to get the quality of life they deserve.”
Gurkha veterans are also awaiting verdict of a British high court regarding their petition for equal pension and benefits vis a vis their British counterparts.
A hearing was conducted at the Royal Court of Justice in London on October 27 and 28 on cases filed by ex-Gurkhas related to pension issues. The verdict by the court is expected within a few weeks.
Public Relations Officer of the BGWS, Prakash Gurung, said besides pursuing legal measures, the BGWS was lobbying with the British MPs in its fight for equal rights. According to the BGWS, a total of 94 MPs from major political parties of the UK have supported the ‘Early Day Motion 1726 on Gurkha Pensions’ so far. The motion was tabled by George Howarth MP on 23 June 2009. nepalnews.com