London, Jan.15 (ANI): The British Army is reportedly keen about wanting to disband the 200-year-old Gurkha regiment, claiming that it will cost too much to treat its veterans properly.
Military top brass have warned that the historic brigade could be disbanded if the Government allows thousands more former Gurkhas to settle in Britain.
According to the Daily Express, they say that the introduction of full residency and pension rights for the veterans and their dependants could leave the Ministry of Defence and British taxpayers facing a bill of up to three billion pounds.Campaigners last night blasted the plans, which could see the end of the British Army's most loyal and heroic regiments.
Joanna Lumley, 62, whose father fought alongside Gurkhas in the Second World War, accused the British Defence Ministry of "scaremongering".
Lumley last year joined forces with the Daily Express crusade seeking better rights for Gurkhas and delivering a 250,000-signature petition to Gordon Brown demanding justice for the selfless warriors.
She said: "The idea that they will be a drain on the NHS is offensive - these people were prepared to fight and die for the NHS. Many of them actually had money deducted from their pay to help pay for it. They have as much right as any British citizen to use it."Under new rules due to be announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in the next few weeks, the rights of ex-Gurkhas are to be widened significantly.
All veterans will be allowed to settle in Britain and receive a full Army pension.
But one high-ranking defence official said: "This could make the Gurkhas too expensive for the Army."
It is estimated up to 50,000 Gurkha veterans and dependants could apply to come to the UK from Nepal and other parts of Asia.
Tory MP and former infantry officer Patrick Mercer said the Gurkhas were being saved at the moment because of a recruitment shortfall in the Army.
Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "The people of Britain should be enormously grateful to the Gurkhas for their courage and commitment in defence of this country. The loss of the Gurkhas would be a body blow for the Armed Forces." (ANI)