A READING Gurkha is preparing to go on a hunger strike ‘to death’ if the Government does not reform veteran pension rights.

Gyanraj Rai, 59, will begin fasting on November 21, three years to the day after his first, 14 day hunger strike came to an end outside 10 Downing Street.

Mr Rai has been on a 20 year campaign for Gurkhas to receive the same pension as British born army veterans.

As the law currently stands many Nepalese fighters who retired before 1997, the year when the Gurkha Brigade headquarters moved from Hong Kong to Britain, receive a fraction of their British counterparts.

Despite more than 20 years of service as a warrant officer, Mr Rai rents a Saint Peter’s Road property where he looks after seven elderly Gurkhas on only £300 a month.

“In 2009 during the big Joanna Lumley debate I told many politicians we need both relocation and pension rights,” explained Mr Rai.

“But we only got relocation rights.”

Convinced that an often overlooked 1948 treaty between India, Britain and Nepal gave Gurkhas pension parity with British soldiers, on November 7 Mr Rai sat outside the Prime Minister’s house and stopped eating.

“The first five days were very hard, but by the sixth or seventh I had forgotten the taste of food,” he said.

“I felt powerless, mentally and physically. By the thirteenth day I was largely unconscious.

“Then they came and told me they would sort out our problems.”

Mr Gai broke his fast with a glass of juice and box of fruit handed to him by Mrs Lumley.

Unfortunately, so he believes, the Government soon broke their promise.

The pledged Parliamentary Enquiry did indeed go ahead later that year, but the resultant legislation changes were minimal and the pension rates for the pre-1997 veterans remained unaffected.

Now, 200 years since Gurkhas first fought for Britain, Mr Rai is returning to the steps of Downing Street to continue his fight for equal pensions.

“The Government really cheated us,” said Mr Rai, who will be joined in his protest by British army veterans.

“Now I am preparing to go on a hunger strike to death.

“It will be challenging for me but I am not scared.

“There is no other means.”

Following the news of Mr Rai's protest, the Ministry of Defence issued a statement claiming Gurkha pension rights are fair. 

A MOD Spokesperson said: “The decision of the European Court of Human Rights last month supported previous rulings by UK Courts that the Gurkha Pension Scheme is fair and generous. 

"For most Gurkhas, the scheme provides a pension of an equal value to that of their British counterparts, and we will continue to honour and reward their commitment under our existing arrangements.”

The MOD went on to state that the Gurkha Pension Scheme pays Gurkha pensions at double the top rate of the Indian Army, where many Gurkhas are also employed, and that the rates are examined every ten years when the Indian Government publishes its central pay commission findings. 

It also pointed out that Gurkhas now serve on the same terms as their British counterparts whilst noting that a 'number of small differences designed to meet the wishes of the Government of Nepal' remain.