Police disrupt Gurkha hunger strikers at Downing Street
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Gurkha veterans are currently on their sixth day of protesting in London, calling on the Government to make steps to level up their pensions to match British soldiers. Members of the group have said they are seeking “equal rights” compared to their British counterparts and they are willing to continue striking until they die.
The Gurkhas have fought for the British Army across the world since 1947.
Between them, the Gurkha group has received 13 Victoria Crosses and 43,000 died during the First and Second World Wars.
There are an estimated 3,500 men in the Gurkha Brigade now, but there were 112,000 during World War Two.
They are not British citizens, but are based in Shorncliffe near Folkestone in Kent.
The selection process for becoming a Gurkha is believed to be one of the toughest in the world – with young hopefuls required to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying a wicker basket on their back filled with rocks weighing 70lbs.
A group of military veterans are spending their sixth day outside Downing Street over the Government’s failure to provide them with a full Armed Forces pension.
The men have vowed to eat nothing until their demands are heart.
The group is campaigning for equal pensions for Gurkhas who retired before 1997, and are not eligible for a full UK Armed Forces pensions.
The Gurkhas have said more will join their protest if their calls for equality go unanswered.
The Support Our Gurkhas protesters, who reached their fifth day of not eating on Wednesday, say they have been “harassed” by police officers who took down their gazebos.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the topic of pensions for Gurkhas is being taken very seriously.
He told Sky News: “We do take very seriously the issue of pensions for Gurkhas.
“The Gurkhas’ pension scheme, we’ve increased it between 10 percent and 25 percent since March 2019, we’ve added another £25 million in terms of providing health for Gurkhas in Nepal.
“And ministers are of course in touch with and will be in touch with those people who are concerned about pensions for Gurkhas – they are a very important part of the British Army and we’ve always taken very seriously the welfare and the pension of Gurkhas who have served in our armed forces.”
Mr Gibb added: “I’m not entirely sure who has met who but I do know that we are always keen to speak to people who are concerned about the welfare of our Gurkha regiment and the pensions arrangements for those soldiers.”
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What is the Gurkha pension scheme and how much do they get?
The Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) is based upon Indian Army rates for those with at least 15 years’ service.
The Government said the scheme was designed for retirement in Nepal, where living costs are significantly lower than in the UK.
However, in 2009, all retired Gurkhas won the right to live in the UK.
One Gurkha said his pension was £47 a month after his service – compared to more than £800 a month for a British veteran.
He added he received a lump sum payment of £3,000 when leaving the army, which compares to £60,000 to £70,000 for a British veteran.
In addition, he said today he receives £350 a month, compared to £1,200 to £1,300 a month for former British soldiers.
The British Gurkha Welfare Society said about 25,000 men who had retired before July 1, 1997 were denied the opportunity to transfer into UK armed forces pension schemes.
According to a House of Commons reports into Gurkha Pensions published in July 2021, the pension amounts were as follows for different former soldiers:
British and Commonwealth Veterans warrant officer class 2 (WO2) in AFPS 1975 after 22 years of service: £12,909
Gurkha W02 in GPS/AFPS, enlisted before October 1, 1993 and retired in 2006 (after 1997) after 22 years of service: £6,840
Gurkha WO2 in GPS (enlisted before October 1, 1993, and retired before July 1, 1997) after 22 years of service: £4,043.16.
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