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Gurkha soldiers from Reading and Basingstoke threaten to resume hunger strike over pension rights

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१० श्रावण २०७९, मंगलवार २०:२५

Retired Gurkha soldiers in the Thames Valley say they might be forced to go on hunger strike again because of, what they see as, a lack of action on their pension rights.

It has been almost a year since Gyanraj Rai, 65, from Reading and Dhan Gurung from Basingstoke refused food for 13 days outside Downing Street, on behalf of the Nepalese community.

However they say promised talks to improve their pensions have not yet happened.

Gyanraj Rai, retired Gurkha, said: “If the campaign does not get successful, what is the use of my life? So, I’d better die.

“There will be mass hunger strike. For me, I did it twice, 10 days and 13 days, for that I had to practice, to resist the pain.

“We Gurkhas, we want to survive with dignity and prestige as well.”

The reason those who retired before the mid-1990s receive around 50% less is because it was assumed they would return to life in Nepal where the cost of living was said to be cheaper.

However, many wished to stay in the UK once they were given leave after an earlier campaign, but now find they are struggling to make ends meet.

Gyanraj served under Major Jud Bahadur, from Basingstoke, who has been involved in negotiations between the Nepalese ambassador and UK Government officials.

Jud Bahadur said: “A lot of the Gurkhas old guard, they want to go back to Nepal and die in dignity and they can’t do that because they’re withdrawing the pension credit here and if they were to give us the pension equivalent which is actually a drop in the ocean and let us now get on and get this over and done with, so the two countries can get back to a very good understanding we had before.”

The Ukraine crisis and Nepalese elections have been cited as reasons for the delay.

A further meeting is scheduled for Thursday when the campaigners insist on a date for talks to bring about a resolution.

If they don’t they say they won’t hesitate to take drastic action involving further hunger strikes.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “We greatly value the huge contribution Gurkhas make to the British Army and ensure they are supported with a generous pension and medical care in retirement, boosted by a £25m investment in facilities for those who return to Nepal.

“We are committed to ensuring the Gurkha Pension Scheme is sustainable and fair alongside other UK public sector pensions.”