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Weddings in jeopardy, Rs 1,000 to run home — chaos at PMC Bank branches in Mumbai

Decision by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to limit withdrawals by account holders at Rs 1,000 for six months has locked up nearly all the finances of many.

Written by Gargi Verma , Srinath Rao , Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
Updated: September 26, 2019 8:47:33 am
Weddings in jeopardy, Rs 1,000 to run home — chaos at PMC Bank branches in Mumbai At the entrance of a PMC Bank branch in Mumbai. (Reuters)

The freeze of business imposed upon the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank has thrown Ankush Dewan’s wedding in a serious jeopardy. The 32-year-old is set to marry in November but Tuesday’s decision by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to limit withdrawals by account holders at Rs 1,000 for six months has locked up nearly all his finances.

“My mother and brother have accounts at a PMC Bank branch in Vasai. My mother has put all her savings in the account and I have also recently given her most of mine. I am due to get married in November. That is going to be difficult now,” said Dewan, a financial services professional.

Having made bookings for the nuptials months ago, it is too late now to postpone the wedding. To make matters worse, the crisis has also resulted in Dewan’s home renovations being stalled. “With just 30 to 40 days to go for the wedding, it is not possible to call it off. I have no choice but to take a loan,” he said.

His brother is also looking at making alternative arrangements to pay his home loan as monthly payments will no longer go through.

A day after the RBI asked the PMC Bank not allow withdrawal of more than Rs 1,000 per account for six months and limited facility of loans, investments as well as any fresh deposits or fund borrowal, several account holders started withdrawing Rs 1,000, fearing they will lose even that amount if they didn’t withdraw.

Explained: Why RBI has put restrictions on a cooperative bank, what happens now

“After I run out of money, I will start borrowing from neighbours,” said Ranjana Kharat, who held two Rs 500 notes outside the Chembur branch of the bank on Wednesday. Kharat works as a domestic help and has two children to feed. Her husband had passed away a few years ago. “My employer deposits my salary in the bank account. I also have a fixed deposit (FD),” she said.

“I don’t know how I will run my house with Rs 1,000. Despite having money in my account, I have to borrow,” said Govandi resident Abdul Rehman, who works as lighting technician on production sets. Rehman stood from 10 am till 7 pm outside the Chembur branch — where a police van stood guard to keep crowd under control — on Tuesday to break his two FDs of Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 50,000. On Wednesday, he finally withdrew Rs 1,000.

Jyoti Nagar (59) had opened a FD of Rs 1 lakh on September 23 at the Ulhasnagar branch. She is one of the many customers standing outside the bank since 9 am. “They keep telling us to cooperate and that our money will not go anywhere. Then why don’t they give it to me now?” Jyoti asked.

“There are more than 50 people at any given point of time in front of the bank, and we have to ensure there’s no chaos. Some of the customers even insult us, though are here to just control the crowd,” said a police constable stationed outside the bank’s Thane branch.

Jeet Ahuja (33), who had invested Rs 2 lakh last year at the branch, came to retrieve his money on Wednesday. “I had seen the news, but I thought it was for savings account holders only. I had plans for the money, as it would have matured today. Now, I don’t know if I will get it,” the Ulhasnagar resident said.

His friend Pankaj Joshi (29) had opened a savings account and recurring deposit account last November. “I am getting married this December. All of my money is in the account,” he said.

In Thane’s Wagle Estate branch, Satnam Randhawa (56) had been waiting to speak to the branch manager for three hours. “All of my money is at the bank… Now, suddenly, I am penniless.”
Rahim Gulbani, a Kalyan-based school teacher, claimed that the bank had cheated them all. “It’s like demonitisation, but now we are not sure if we will get our money back,” he said.

A PMC bank employee from Kalyan said, “We are unclear about the decision too. We have just been told not to let anyone withdraw. It’s really difficult because so many customers know us and accost us individually.”

BJP leader Kirit Somaiya met the bank administration at its headquarters in Bhandup on Wednesday. “I suggested some innovative methods to help the customers. It will also be prudent to separate the healthy branches, where normal banking can be done, from the parent and do a semi-merger. They took note of my suggestions and I will meet the RBI governor in a couple of days,” he said.

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