A RETIRED Gurkha from Basingstoke has said the community will go ahead with planning for a hunger strike following a lack of action on their pension rights.

Major Jud Bahadur, who has been involved in negotiations between the Nepalese ambassador and UK Government officials, said the Gurkha community in the UK will start planning for a hunger strike if the Ministry of Defence fails to decide on when talks will begin by Wednesday evening.

In August last year, two retired Gurkha soldiers – Gyanraj Rai, 65, from Reading, and Dhan Gurung, 60, from Basingstoke – went on a hunger strike outside Downing Street for 13 days to protest against Gurkhas' unequal pensions.

Dhan Gurung was taken to hospital after 12 days when his heart slowed, but was later discharged.

READ MORE: Basingstoke Gurkha Dhan Gurung taken to hospital

They officially ended the strike after the government promised to hold talks to solve their concerns.

Major Bahadur said: “We are yet to start the actual talk, which is the government-to-government talk, and if the date is not provided by Wednesday evening for the terms of reference, the planning will go ahead for the hunger strike."

Terms of reference is a meeting to set an agenda of all the subjects to be covered in the forthcoming talks.

He continued: “Initially, [we will observe] August 19 as a symbolic day because that's the day when last year’s hunger strike ended. Then we'll follow up with other things, and culminating on October 3, hunger strike will start.

“The Supreme Court on August 19 [last year] directed that the Prime Minister will be responsible for any death because of the hunger strikes. It is nearly a year now and we have not achieved anything. All ex-soldiers are frustrated.”

Major Bahadur added: “They have stated that it will be in mid-September, but they haven't given us a definite date. The talks will be divided into three phases and hopefully we will get the phase one from September to end of October. But the phases two and three will be longer.”

He said the community is yet to decide on the number of retired soldiers to go on hunger strike.

He said: “It may be a relay hunger strike. Or it could be like the last time – two to four volunteers”.

The Gurkha men, recruited from the rugged Himalayan country of Nepal, have a reputation as hard and loyal fighters, and are known for the trademark curved kukri blades they carry sheathed on their belts.

Around 200,000 Gurkhas fought in both world wars, and they have also served in places such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who served from 1948 to 2007 were members of the Gurkha Pension Scheme until the Labour government of the time eliminated the differences between Gurkhas’ terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts.

Serving Gurkhas, and those with service on or after July 1, 1997, could then opt to transfer into the Armed Forces Pension Scheme.

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The change was brought in after an amendment to immigration rules in 2007, backdated to July 1997, meant more retired Gurkhas were likely to settle in the UK on discharge, whereas the previous pension scheme had lower rates as it had assumed they would return to Nepal where the cost of living was significantly lower.

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