Photo of Gurkha veteran demonstrating outside Downing Street, London 2008.
©Shubha Giri

On the 11th of January 2010, just seven and a half months after the success of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, Gurkha veterans from the British Gurkha Welfare Society who had retired or served before 1997 lost their case for equal pensions at the High Court in London.

Arcane Rules from a Bygone Era

The MOD's rules mean that Gurkhas who retired before 1997 (when Hong Kong was handed back to China) are only eligible for pensions worth a fraction of other British soldiers' pensions - including Gurkhas who retire after 1997. The pensions of Gurkhas who retire after 1997, but who also served before 1997, are calculated using a set of complex rules that effectively mean that the years they served before 1997 are worth a fraction of the years after 1997, in terms of pension contributions. Gurkhas who enlisted - i.e. joined the army - after 1997 receive the same pay, pensions and settlement rights as other British soldiers and are not affected by these arcane terms and conditions, neither are Gurkhas who became Sandhurst-commissioned 'British Officers'.

The level of pre-1997 Gurkha pensions was originally determined by the 'Tripartite Agreement' signed by Nepal, India and Britain at the time of the Partition of India in 1947. Following years of pressure from Gurkha organisations, Gurkha pensions were doubled in 1999 with a commitment to monitor the cost of living in Nepal and increase pensions accordingly. Then in 2005 the British Government began a review of Gurkhas' Terms & Conditions of Service which resulted in a revised set of 'proposals' in 2007. These revised policies did not however grant pre-1997 Gurkha Veterans any increase in their pensions. A full explanation of the British Government's position can be read in this Parliamentary Briefing from July 2009 (PDF).

Still Fighting

Meanwhile Gurkha veterans continue to arrive in the UK, many facing financial hardship when they arrive. The UK Gurkha community continue to support these veterans (Gurkhas.com article) and their right to fairer pensions, with organisations such as the Gurkha Welfare Trust, the Forgotten British Gurkhas and the British Gurkha Welfare Society providing material support that should be coming from government agencies. Many ex-Gurkhas have expressed their anger at the way in which they have been treated by the Ministry of Defence and by the British Government.

The campaign continues.

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