A 74-year-old retired businessman, dependent on the interest drawn over fixed deposits in the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank, died last week after suffering a cardiac arrest. This is said to be the ninth death linked to the PMC Bank scam since October 14.
Andrew Lobo, who died on October 31, could not buy medicine for his treatment owing to a paucity of funds, as per his family. His relative, Chris Lobo, said Andrew and his wife Hilda lived in Thane. Lobo suffered from lung failure and had come out of the hospital only days before the RBI imposed restrictions on the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank. “He had a business, a small workshop. When he grew too old to handle the business, he and my granny sold everything off and moved from Mulund to Thane,” Chris said. He added, “After the restrictions were enforced, they didn’t have any money as their household expenses were being met with the help of the interest from the fixed deposits. Even we couldn’t help much as all of our money is stuck in the bank as well.”
On October 31, Lobo, who had over Rs 35 lakh in a fixed deposit in the bank, was allegedly very agitated over insufficient funds and suffered a cardiac arrest while talking to Hilda (69).
“He was worried about arranging money for his medicines and an oxygen machine, which he needed to sleep,” Chris said. Lobo was rushed to a private hospital, but was declared dead on arrival, he added.
“We had to sell my mother’s jewellery to be able to bear the daily costs for our family. We are all sharing the expenses for granny Hilda as of now. The bank is fully responsible for his (Andrew’s) death and for the hardships we are facing right now,” Chris said.
In September, the RBI imposed restrictions on PMC Bank after they found irregularities to the tune of Rs 4,355 crore in bank accounts. A case has been registered by the Mumbai Economic Offence Wing and they have arrested five people, including the promoters of HDIL Rakesh and Sarang Wadhwan. However, the RBI imposed restrictions on the withdrawal limit of depositors, which led to panic. Since September, several protests have been held by depositors.
According to Pankaj Punjabi, a depositor, the nine deaths are just a small indicator of the prevailing crisis. “When the first death was reported, we knew more would follow. So many people have died but no one is worried. The BJP had said they would focus on the issue once the elections are over, but clearly, this is not a pressing issue for them,” he said.
Another depositor, Bharati Kakkad, said, “We will all die like this and still no one will care. I don’t go for protests anymore because I have realised that no one cares. It is important that we start rebuilding our lives now.”