Nepali Times
Soldiering on


ON OUR OWN: Phangla and Surdhoj Rai (front, L-R) taking an evening stroll in the neighbourhood with their friends Bhim Bahadur, Bam Bahadur and Lalmaya Gurung .
When visitors get off the train at Aldershot, they are greeted with a memorial that reads "proud to be the home of the British Army". Located 60 kms south-west of London, Aldershot is home to 9,000 Gurkha Army veterans and their families, who make up almost 10 per cent of the town's population.

3000 more reside in nearby Farnborough. Towns like Reading, Plumstead and Wembley which are closer to London also have comparable Gurkha population.

Many families moved to the UK after May 2009's landmark ruling granted residency rights to Gurkhas who retired before 1997, and who had served at least four years in the British Army, along with their wives and children under 18.

Despite respectable and relatively comfortable lives in Nepal, they left their homes, relatives and friends to resettle in England in hopes of better state benefits, free healthcare, greater savings and educational and employment opportunities for their children.

Ex-Gurkha servicemen have struggled for years to receive equal pension, allowance, and citizenship rights as their British counterparts. However, even after winning important legal battles, their quality of life remains poor. Fulfilling the 'British dream' has been especially difficult for older veterans and their wives.

Language barrier, lack of workplace skills and qualifications, along with diminishing physical abilities put elderly couples in an extremely vulnerable state. Although the British government permits some veterans to bring their
18-plus children under 'special circumstances' or after winning court cases, most parents over 60 years migrate on their own. Living without children or caretakers becomes their biggest challenge.

"We got our rights, but have no one to look after us. We are helpless," says 74-year-old Bhim Bahadur Gurung from Thulo Pelkachaur in Syangja district who came to the UK 18 months ago with his wife Lalmaya. The Gurungs had to leave behind their two daughters and a son in Nepal because they were over 18.Whenever Bhim Bahadur and Lalmaya visit hospitals, the doctors simply prescribe medicines and send them off. Since they don't speak English and don't have a caretaker, they are unable to explain their problems and are denied proper care. "We have to pay extra to hire a translator. If we had our children or a relative, our lives would be easier," says Lalmaya.

83-year-old Surdhoj Rai and his wife Phangla from Khadbari, Sankhuwasabha share a similar story. Rai suffers from a fractured back and poor eyesight, but he can't describe his pain to the doctors. When Phangla falls sick, there is no one to cook and they sleep on empty stomachs. They have five children back in Nepal.

Another father of five, Jeet Bahadur Sunuwar who is originally from Ramechhap district and owns a house in Kathmandu is a diabetes, blood pressure and arthritis patient and is confined to his wheelchair most of the time. His wife Lalmaya is recovering from breast cancer operation and is also not fully healthy. "There is no use giving us rights if our children don't get the same rights as well," says Lalmaya Sunuwar.

There are numerous couples in Aldershot like Gurungs, Rais and Sunuwars who have no one to turn to in case of emergency. Although there are plenty of organisations dedicated to the welfare of retired Gurkhas, none have paid much attention to the plight of elderly veterans and their demands to bring adult children have been largely ignored.

Krishna Kumar Rai, Chairman of Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO) says his agency helps out elderly veterans by accompanying them to banks, hospitals and government offices. GAESO, which has brought the largest number of veterans to the UK, also offers two-hour English classes once a week. However, these efforts are not adequate considering the large number of ageing Gurkhas.

Lalmaya Sunuwar helping her husband Jeet Bahadur with his jacket.
"We recently filed a case against the government and are fighting for the rights of veterans to bring children over 18 with them," says Rai.

Prakash Gurung, public relations officer at British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS), however, argues that instead of fighting for the rights of residency of children over 18, ex-Gurkhas should demand for pension that is on par with other British servicemen.

"If Gurkhas received as high a pension, most would not even migrate to the UK. This way the host government wouldn't have to bear additional responsibilities," he explains. The case for equal pension is currently in the European court.

Gyan Raj Rai of United British Gurkhas Ex-Servicemen's Association insists that the British government compensate Gurkhas who retired before 1997 for all the years they lost fighting for settlement rights and the resulting difficulties.

To make matters worse, anti-Gurkha sentiments have been on the rise in the past few years and Aldershot youth are using Facebook to express their discontent. And it's not just commoners; even local leaders see the arrival of new Gurkha settlers as a burden on their cities' limited resources. Aldershot's Member of Parliament, Gerald Howarth has repeatedly requested the prime minister to spread out the Gurkha population across the country like refugees.

The next five to six years are going to be tougher for elderly Gurkha couples. As their health deteriorates they will have to be placed in nursing homes, which will put them under greater financial pressure. And the responsibility of performing last rites or taking the body back home will fall solely on the surviving spouse.

Read the original Nepali version here

See also:
The resistants, SITA MANDEBA in DHARAN
The fight for equality opened doors for the Gurkhas to settle in the UK, but the towns back home are now deserted

Ae Gorkhaliharu, TOM OWEN-SMITH
Britain's gain is Nepal's loss

1. PhD Student, UK

I agree the ideal would be for Gurkhas to receive pension which is on par and the article does a good job of explaining the plight of elderly Gurkhas. But really asking for more of their kin to come to help the existing ones sounds like a case of 'give them a finger, and they'll take the whole hand', as once they arrive they would want to bring their own children and what not. Yes one could say the Brits "exploited" the gurkhas but lets not start exploiting and expecting them to fulfill all our needs.The salary they provided was still excellent, it would not have been such a coveted job otherwise. Anyways why not just return them to their family while they are still able?! It is the childrens responsibility to look after their parents, not that of the British Government!

2. Dr M. Budhathoki

"Whenever Bhim Bahadur and Lalmaya visit hospitals, the doctors simply prescribe medicines and send them off. Since they don't speak English and don't have a caretaker, they are unable to explain their problems and are denied proper care. "We have to pay extra to hire a translator. If we had our children or a relative, our lives would be easier," says Lalmaya. .....83-year-old Surdhoj Rai and his wife Phangla from Khadbari, Sankhuwasabha share a similar story. Rai suffers from a fractured back and poor eyesight, but he can't describe his pain to the doctors. "

As a doctor working in the UK, i want to tell NT readers that if they ask for a translator in the UK, the patients dont have to pay 'extra'. I am aware Nepalese would want to cause as less fuss as possible, but would rather suffer silently. But in the hospitals or with your family doctor, in courts, etc. you can ask for a translator and the government pays.  Doctors themselves make every effort to understand patients as much as possible. I have patients who dont speak English and when i dont understand them, i phone the translation services. I also use the google translate, which is brillant if the patient is able to type on the computer.

Health care in the UK is free for all residents who live longer than 6 months here, emergency treatment is free even for visitors. It is one of most 'giving' welfare states in the world as i see it. 

3. Bhim Gurung

Phd student seems jealous that most Gurkhas have residency rights and wants them sent back. He probably thinks writing Phd makes him some sort of intellectual with much intelligence. He is wrong. He should have the guts to print his name if he has any courage and can justify his hollow opinions. The other bahun who wrote this article has again written the plight of a few Gurkhas. Most Gurkhas are very happy, content and living a comfortable live in the UK.

4. amused
wow, how does an article on the plight of elderly Nepali gurkha men and their wives, turn into an ugly commentary about 'bahuns'? it baffles me. 

i think the writer has a point. yes there might be many gurkhas who are living happy and satisfying lives, but the 60+ population is having a hard time. why do we have to deny that? 

Announce Aldershot an ethnic state of gurkhas or atleast fund a gurkha organization so that they could demand an athnic state for the welfare of their men, If not they will raise the same arms against British authorities for whom they sacrificed their lives. Ask DFID to help this marginalised group back home. They are the indigenous group who helped the british empire to conquer nearly half the world. GURKHAS ARE TREATED AS THIRD CLASS CITIZEN IN UK WITH COMPLETELY DISCRIMINATORY LAW. THIS DOES NOT SOUND VERY VERY BRITISH.

The moral of the comment: The problems of the contemporary society are reflected in each country irrespective of prosperity or misery each can count with.

6. who cares


need to add: demand for republic state, top posts in bureaucracy, military, police, mi5 court etc. 

just for about the military, how high a nepali origin has reached in gorkha regimen? is there any one above major, what is the percentage of nepaliese occupying officer level?

unlike in nepal, nepaliese in uk are not behind cause they are incompetent, they are kept behind. the environment in british army is such that nepalese dont or cant complete their education.  

7. shyam tamang

I am an avid reader. I am sorry to say that I have never read a single article written by any bahun in all my life which is not patronizing or instigating when written about ethnic communities. Why don't bahuns write about their own communities?

8. anita khadka
#7 would this article (with the same content) be more "worthy" and "real" and "heart breaking" if instead of Badri Paudel the name was changed to Badri Gurung? I know Nepali media has adisproportionately highnumber of upper caste male Brahmins and Chettris, but is it right to discount an entire article even before reading it just because the author is from a certain caste?

Regardless of who wrote this, I think this is a very relevant and sad piece. Imagine your grandparents living in such challenging and difficult conditions in their 80s. Also if you read carefully the article does not say ALL gurkha families settled in the UK are struggling, it talks about a particualr demographic of 60 - 80 age group who are living alone. How is that patronising or instigating?

9. kale
how many years have a gurkha lahure spent without his family during his service in hong kong malaysia? when its time for retirement and reunion with their kids , wives..they are living alone with noone to help them. british govt should take into consideration the pension and benefits it gives to the old gurkhas and also its consolatory residency rights that might have direct indirect and social/pshychological consequences on his immediate family members. British govt will face serious criminal and human trafficking offences in international court of justices and human rights, if these issues are not addressed immediately. British treatment of gurkhas is a clear sign of modern day slavery, genocide and racism.

10. who cares
8. anita khadka

"........... upper caste male Brahmins and Chettris............."

are you day dreaming? since when pakhe, petty thief, phony, liar have become upper cast.

race with such profile normally are considered as animal class in the west. 

11. who cares
upper caste male Brahmins and Chettris 

this is self praising, what next? yr daddy strongest, yr mummy prettiest and you got the biggest 

12. priti
#7 Oh you are such an avid reader,
Tell me more about what you have read.
*Willy Wonka*

13. bijay limbu
i think slowly every things will days most of the childrens of british army are also residing in UK and they are having better access to schooling in the university level which is totally free..again the old generations are being taken care of by providing the houses and senior pensions...but not like the brits counterpart ..but in time every thing will be fine day britain will be a second janajati's  little nepal...

14. anita khadka
so i forgot to put "upper caste" in inverted commas. what a great sin i committed.

also at least i dare to use my last name during crazy times when people are attacked not for their arguments/opinions but based SOLELY on their family names. and you get to act all high and mighty god like hiding behind your pathetic nickname. i was born into a chettri family, so now i have no rights to hold any public opinions? is that how Naya Nepal works? thanks for letting me know. now you may continue with your crazy man tirade on me, and seven generations of my family.  

15. SL
Saddened & Disheartened.
Saddened by the news of elderly people residing in UK. But it won't be suprising enough that in our very country, the news of many elderly people being discarded by the society & family is not uncommon. Still, though being aware of their motives of migrating to UK, it is far more better for them to stay in Nepal only, cause i can't even imagine the way they are coping to new environment totally different from ours in their old age.
& Disheartened after reading out the comments above. How come people tagging ethnic issue on this very news, the subject matter of this news is very clear. kindly get rid of this ethnic hangover or spill it out somewhere else.

16. Pemba
Hope these brits will understand how difficult is it for them to cope with such a large number of elderly ex-veterans and give them equal treatment as their brit counterparts and convince them to settle back to own country coz at this old age its very difficult for these poor elderly people to live in a country where everything is different.

17. GGurung
What made is worst was the ill-information they were given in Nepal, false hopes of ready homes and benefits in waiting. Many landed with llittle and some with no money at all. Gettting homes and benefits in order takes its own pace and it is painfully slow. It is at this time the elderlies suffer the most. As far as the translation is concerned, the NHS, CAB and the council, 'despite the discontent of locals and the MP' employs Nepalis to help translate none speakers long since for free and they can be made available not just in Rushmoor but in any corners of the country and the doctors do not write prescriptions in the UK without a proper diagnosis which I believe Paudyal Ji seem to have missed to investigate.

18. Samjana Rana M
I'm appalled that we Nepali  can stooped so low and can use racist languages so freely when disagreeing with simple facts mentioned in this article. I'm particularly frightened by the comment of our 'avid reader' Mr. Shayam Tamang that despite this claim of erudition he uses words that are uncouth and frankly alarming and downright racist.  

Yes, this article is unbalanced. It paints picture of just couple of struggling families and there are no mentions of Gurkhas who have successfully settled in UK. But any avid reader would have pointed this fact and asked the writer to do more thorough research and present more balanced article and not attack the writer like that. 

19. Pemba

Samjana Rana - why are the words of Mr Tamang being described as uncouth when you are yourself speaking against the use of such words? All he said was he was an avid reader and made no mention of being erudite unlike some self-claimed intellectuals. Perhaps, he has not come across any article favorably written about any ethnic community. Have you? If yes, please let us know when and where.

20. Kiran Shrestha
If bahun and chetris can claim to be high castes based on reasons they know best, then the Magars, Gurungs, Newars and all commnities can claim to be the highest castes too based on their own cultural heritage. Why not? There is now domocracy in Nepal and not autocracy. It is time for  people to stop claiming superiority overs others based on their castes. These things are laughing matter to others outside Nepal.

21. Thapa
WOW!  I live in the USA and am shocked to read that people of my motherland are still bickering about casteism. To discriminate against somebody against his caste, color, race or religion is not just stupid but uncivilized in the modern world. There is no high or low caste. it is all man made and was used to divide/exploit.People who professed superiority over others not just ruined themselves but their countries. Not heard of them? Hitler and Mussolini are just a few recent examples. Please forge ahead in unity. The USA is a great example of how a nation became a super power through unity in diversity.

22. pokhreli
Why is it whenever a Gurkha article appear in a paper that it attracts so much passionate comments? Is it because they are predominately from an ethnic group and they have just won a perceived "lottery"? Who in Nepal can deny that given an opportunity who wouldn't catch the next plane to USA, UK or Europe. For everyone's information only about 20% of the eligible Gurkhas have taken up the settlement offer.

23. JS
I am amazed and baffled not so much about the article - which I find is nothing new, but the comments..... It's way away from the discourse this article was suppose to generate. Some people it seems come on board with single intention in every article - spread hatred and racism, with single intention of deconstructing the already fledgling Nepali society. Just amazing! The quality of the readers or rather say those who feel the need to provide comments is really simply bad!

24. Shishir Mani Pradhan
Nepalis are known to be idiots. This discussion proves it all. Our leaders have devised the 'Divide and Rule' strategy and you morons are playing their game. Now someone please make a 'newar' comment at me. That's as much as your brain can function.  

It is stupid to talk of caste,ethnicity,race and blame each other in the twenty century. In this world there is onlytwoclass of people ,male and female, and nothing else. Think of the under privileged and try to lift them up, give the opportunity as equal to all. Nepalese at this stage must think as one unitednationand the union of Nepal.

26. Laxmi
As time goes, Aldershot will be known as Little Nepal or Gurkha town just as Little India in Singapore and China town in London and New York or elsewhere in world.  Good sign of |Nepalese migration to greener paster just as our forefathers migrated from the mountains of Mogolia-Tibet or from the plains of India and establish their footing in the mountains, hills and plains of Nepal.

Nepalese or Gurkhe are very adaptable people so don't worry settling in the UK will be a piece of cake as time goes.

27. GGurung
racism is prevalent and ingrained in human nature, no matter where you are or who you are or what century we are in ergo need not dwell in hypocrisy, difference is only how it is perpetrated and what states do about it but evidently almost all countries failed to find a panacea. It is a disease that will remain in human minds forever. If these Gurkha elderlies weren't the victims of racism and discrimination, they'd not have suffered the way are now in their twilight. Britain is where is where the human right was born. ha..ha

28. Gary Ghale

There is no doubt that problems exists with elderly retired Gurkhas (60+) in UK which the article has highlighted. This is mainly because of their inability to speak English and not being au fait with the UK customs and culture. The GWT, the lead Gurkha charity, is doing everything it can to help meet the welfare needs of Gurkhas in the UK despite its main focus being Nepal where it helps destitute retired Gurkhas to live a life of dignity. 


In order to ensure successful settlement in UK, retired Gurkhas are able to get help in Nepal from the Gurkha Settlement Office in Kathmandu. This office gives comprehensive briefings about life in the UK and the cost of living. They also assist with completing visa application forms and importantly will register individuals for the issue of a National Insurance Number through a fast track system.  This excellent service is provided free, enabling those wishing to come to the UK to make an informed decision.


When individuals arrive in UK, they can get further advice, help and support from the two Gurkha Welfare Centres (GWC) in UK situated in Salisbury and Aldershot - a joint operation of the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) and HQ Brigade of Gurkhas.  The GWC UK works very closely with Government Departments, Service charities, local authorities and the ex-Gurkha communities to meet the welfare needs of Gurkhas in the UK. To date it has dealt with more than 2,500 welfare cases ranging from simple to the very difficult (to cite such examples would simply be too exhaustive). Outreach Programmes through surgeries have also been established in places where there is greater concentration of Gurkhas.  Everyone involved in helping Gurkhas in the UK have been providing an indispensable service. It may not be perfect but without it, the situation of retired Gurkhas in UK could have been far worse.


The GWT in UK is rising to the often demanding welfare challenges to ensure as far as possible that retired Gurkhas are able live a life of dignity. We are here to help and should any retired Gurkhas need any welfare help, all they need to do is to contact us.


29. Kay Leaves

Understanding our culture is a big issue in my town. Alarmingly we are still hearing of incidents of elder nepali people defacating and urinating in our parks, woods, bushes and even reports of this behaviour on buses and in shops!!! This is NOT acceptable in our culture, and if this issue was dealt with, it would go along way to aiding a smooth intergration.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)