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Thursday, July 09, 2020

PMC depositors stare at broken lives: ‘Nowhere to go for help’

Three weeks after the RBI slapped restrictions on Mumbai-based PMC Bank for various irregularities, including Rs 6,200 crore stuck with the HDIL group promoted by the Wadhawans, its account-holders are struggling to pick up the pieces.

Written by Gargi Verma | Mumbai | Updated: October 14, 2019 7:05:25 am
PMC bank scam, PMC scam, Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank scam, RBI, RBI on PMC bank scam, pmc account holders, indian express news While some are scrambling to tackle medical emergencies, others are staring at bankruptcy. (PTI Photo)

FROM THE single parent of a son with special needs to a travel operator who lost his savings; from a 29-year-old whose marriage plans have come under a cloud to a domestic help whose dreams of sending her daughter to college lie shattered.

Three weeks after the RBI slapped restrictions on Mumbai-based PMC Bank for various irregularities, including Rs 6,200 crore stuck with the HDIL group promoted by the Wadhawans, its account-holders are struggling to pick up the pieces.

While some are scrambling to tackle medical emergencies, others are staring at bankruptcy. All of them hope that the government will intervene to ensure that they get back their money — and take strict action against those who brought the bank down.

And at least one says he will register his protest by not casting his vote in the Maharashtra elections next week.

The Indian Express spoke to seven families affected by the curbs on withdrawal and came across seven different stories with one underlying theme — despair and anger.

Second time unlucky, Gautam Chabria 47, pvt employee

“My mother and I lost a huge part of our savings in 2015 when we realised that the Rupee Cooperative bank had gone bankrupt. This is the second incident of a cooperative bank going back on its promise of safekeeping my money,” says Chabria, who lives in Andheri with his 70-year-old mother and 21-year-old son with special needs.

“I have to take care of the medical expenses of my son and mother. All of that used to come from the savings in my PMC account. I had some fixed deposits and so did my mother, from the money my father left us in his will,” he says.

Chabria is also worried about the fees for his son’s school, an institution for people with special needs. “They have a monthly fee of Rs 25,000. I don’t know how I will manage. The therapy my son receives there is important for him,” he says.

Chabria, who works with a construction firm, is hoping the government will step in. “There are several instances where the government has bailed out private and nationalised banks. With Rupee Cooperative bank, we only received Rs 2 lakh back. I should have learnt my lesson then,” he says.

Surviving on vadapav, Shabbir Khan, 38, travel operator

Working as a private travel operator in Mumbai for years, Khan had finally managed to save enough money to invest in a house. “I paid Rs 1 lakh on September 23 towards the house in Thane and the next day, I had no money,” he says.

Khan, who owns two cars that are used in his business, is planning to start driving one himself. “My children’s school fees have to be paid, we need to feed them. I have been surviving on vadapav,” he says.

Khan, his wife Gurpreet and their two children are being sustained by friends and family. “Even when I had nothing, when I was starting my business, I was better off than now,” he says.

Khan is trying to get a refund of the Rs 1 lakh paid to the builders. “If I get that money, I can at least ensure my children are fine, and pay off some of my staff,” he said. The builders have, however, denied his request so far.

“This election, I am not going to vote and will tell others to not vote either. No political party has supported us,” says Khan, a resident of Andheri. “All the senior-level employees of the bank and the auditors should be put behind bars till we get our money back.”

Wife’s surgery on hold
Vijay Chaudhari, 38, businessman

Aurangabad businessman Vijay Chaudhari, who opened a PMC account in July, has been struggling to fund the treatment of his wife Sheetal (33), who is suffering from kidney stones.

“She needed a couple of surgeries last year, which I couldn’t afford. I sold my ancestral property and managed to do one, the next was planned for October,” says Chaudhari. “She is in so much pain, and bed-ridden. I don’t know how I will buy her medicines, leave alone the surgery.”

“I have an on-site contract business for a telecom firm. They are yet to pay me my dues. I have never asked for a single penny from anyone, but now I have borrowed money from everywhere, including loan sharks, to finish my projects so that I get my dues,” he says.

May have to put off wedding
Vikas Singh, 29, pvt employee

Vikas was all set to get married in February 2020. “I had been planning for sometime. I had opened up my fixed deposits, which were maturing shortly, to handle the expenses,” he says.

An employee of a private mobile manufacturer, Singh had chosen PMC bank because of the “ease of banking”. “In Virar, where I live, nationalised banks have very few branches. The PMC bank was near my house and worked on Sundays. I had researched before opening my accounts, but all of that is pointless now,” he says. “I am trying to get a personal loan from another bank for the wedding. We may have to postpone it, it is very stressful.”

Close to maxing credit cards
Deven Oberoi, 47, businessman

Vashi resident Deven Oberoi and his father Gulshan had several fixed deposits at the bank. “We used to get monthly interest, which was our primary income,” he says.

The Oberois are now scrambling for funds as Gulshan undergoes dialysis twice a week at the MGM hospital. “The medicines for my parents, our electricity, other utilities bills… everything was being handled by the money in the bank. And now, we have nothing,” says Deven.

Deven has written to the hospital and some charitable trusts to help with the cost of dialysis. “I am close to maxing out my credit cards, and I know there will be consequences. But I don’t have an option right now,” he says.

Struggling to pay employees
Sanjay Lund, 38, businessman

The crisis hit home, says Lund, when he was pulled up for a parking offence near his home in Andheri. “I had no money to pay the fine. I told the constable you can take me to the police station,” he says.

“I have two children. I employ five people in my shop, and I haven’t been able to pay them. I don’t know if I should pay my children’s school fee, our electricity bill or my EMIs with whatever money I make,” says the computer parts dealer.

Lund says he is receiving support from his suppliers and employees. “But for how many days can anyone wait?,” he says. “I am trying to do as much work as possible to ensure there’s some flow of cash. But all of our payments are done through online transfer… now the bank is shut.”

Who will pay for daughter’s education?
Shamima Shaikh, 43, domestic help

Shamima had a fixed deposit at the bank’s Andheri branch for the last 20 years. “I had saved close to Rs 3 lakh. It was for my daughter’s college education,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

According to her eldest daughter Anjum (21), her mother “has been crying on and off over the last three weeks”. “I was to start college next year and she had been saving for it. I want to do a BSc and then a BEd,” says Anjum, who doubles up as a tuition teacher in the locality.

Shamima hails from Lucknow and came to Mumbai after getting married. “My husband was a rickshaw driver who died in an accident in 2001. Since then, I have been the only breadwinner for the family,” she says.

“I want my daughters Anjum and Sakina to have a better life, I don’t want them to lead this life of poverty. If they get educated, I can get them married one day,” she says.

“It would have been better if I had stored the money in my house. I was the first person from my family to open a bank account on my own. I feel that the entire family back in UP is laughing at me now. I have nowhere to go for help,” says Shamima.

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