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‘150 died without vaccine’: Retired Gorkha soldiers from Nepal write to Gen Narawane for doses

Letter Said The 150 Retired Gorkha Soldiers Who Died Of Covid In Nepal Were Yet To Receive A Single Dose Of Vaccine. They Have Asked For 3 Lakh Shots From India.

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Representative Image | File Photo of the Gorkha Regiment marching contingent passing through Rajpath on Republic Day | Wikipedia

Gorkha soldiers from Nepal, formerly serving in the Indian Army, have requested India’s Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane to provide them and their dependents with Covid-19 vaccines. The request came even as Nepal reels under the effects of the pandemic that include not just infections and deaths but also financial distress for many.

In a letter written earlier this month to Naravane and the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) central organisation, the retired Nepal-domiciled Gorkha soldiers (those who are permanent residents of Nepal) said more than 150 of them have died of Covid without receiving any vaccines.

The letter, of which ThePrint has a copy, further said the pandemic has massively affected the people of Nepal and might claim more lives.

The retired soldiers also said the Nepal government was not in a position to prioritise or provide vaccines to them and their dependents, as it itself was dependent on other countries for the vaccines.

“The ex-servicemen (ESM) have served (the Indian Army) with their full loyalty, but now they are dying,” the letter said, adding that neither the Government of India nor the Nepal Government was giving them priority and providing them anti-Covid vaccine.

The letter pointed out that while the ECHS was providing vaccines to ESM and their dependents through ECHS polyclinics in India, retired Gorkha soldiers of Nepal, were yet to get even the first vaccine dose.

The former soldiers questioned whether it was not “most unfair” to the “world famous Gorkha soldiers”.

The retired soldiers, who wrote the letter under the banner of the Nepal Ex-servicemen Association, said it was the responsibility of the ECHS to provide vaccines and medical help to the ESM and their dependents.

They sought General Naravane’s intervention in requesting the ECHS to provide them and their dependents with vaccines on humanitarian grounds.

“Approximately, three lakh vaccines should be enough to take care of the present situation,” the letter stated. It added that the move will save thousands of ex-servicemen “who have given their youth for India”.

‘Foundation of India-Nepal friendship’

Nepalese ex-servicemen who have served in the Indian Army draw pension from the Government of India.

The Indian Army recruits about 1,300 Gorkha youths every year and 30,000 to 35,000 Nepal-domiciled Gorkha soldiers serve in the seven Gorkha Rifles regiments of the Indian Army.

In November last year, Gen. Naravane was conferred the honorary rank of General of the Nepali Army by President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee had said Gorkha soldiers and ex-servicemen were the ‘foundational pillars’ of the India-Nepal friendship.

Earlier, this month, the Army conducted a vaccination drive for ‘Veer Naris’ or soldiers’ wives killed in the line of duty, ex-servicemen and their dependents in Jammu and Kashmir.

In March this year, the Indian Army reportedly gifted 1 lakh doses of anti-Covid vaccines to the Nepal Army.

Nepal started vaccinating its population in January, after it received 1 million doses of Covishield vaccines from India as a grant. Subsequently, the country placed an order for additional vaccine doses from India, to be bought by the neighbouring country. Nepal, however, received only half of the number ordered for as the second Covid wave in India resulted in a domestic shortage.

ThePrint had earlier reported that New Delhi is aiming to release at least those vaccines that have been bought by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal and that are yet to be delivered, by July-end or August.

China also plans to give 1 million vaccine doses to Nepal, of which 80,000 has been delivered.