Gurkha veterans stage hunger strike in campaign for equal pension rights

Gurkha veterans have gone on hunger strike in London as part of a campaign for equal pension rights.

The veterans, taking part in a 24-hour rotation hunger strike in Whitehall, London, are protesting because Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 are not eligible for a UK Armed Forces pension.

In response, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said in a statement: "We greatly value the huge contribution Gurkhas make to the British Army and ensure they are supported with a generous pension and medical care during retirement in Nepal.

"We are committed to ensuring the Gurkha Pension Scheme is sustainable and fair alongside other UK public sector pensions," it added.

Serving Gurkhas, as well as those with service on or after 1 July 1997, will receive an Offer to Transfer (GOTT) to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS).

A year's service after 1 July 1997 counts as a year's service in the AFPS.

However, a year's service before 1 July 1997 only counts as a proportion of a full service year – between 23% and 36% depending on rank.

The reason 1 July 1997 was selected as the key date is because that is when the UK became the base for the Brigade of Gurkhas.

The change in immigration rules, dating back to 1 July 1997, meant there was a higher chance Gurkha veterans would stay in the UK after being discharged from the military.

The previous scheme, the Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS), was based on the Indian Army Model – providing an immediate pension at Indian army rates.

However, the UK Government says it was designed for retirement in Nepal, where the cost of living is lower than in the UK.

In March 2019, ministers announced a number of measures to increase the support Gurkha veterans receive.

That came after a long process of dialogue with the veterans and regular interaction with the Nepalese government.

This saw pensions under the Gurkha Pension Scheme increase by between 10% and 34%, as well as the annual inflation rise.

It also saw £25m of new investment into medical and healthcare facilities for Gurkha veterans in Nepal.

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