A depositor of scam-hit PMC Bank allegedly committed suicide at her residence in Mumbai's Versova, while two more people died of a heart attack a few hours after taking part in a protest by bank customers seeking their money back.
Nivedita Bijlani (39), who allegedly ended life on Monday evening, and Sanjay Gulati (51) who died of a heart attack on the same day, had deposits of over Rs 90 lakh each with the Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank. A third depositor, Fattomal Punjabi, who had an account with the PMC bank's Mulund branch, died on Tuesday afternoon due to a cardiac arrest. All three depositors had taken part in protests over the last few days.
The bank has been put under restrictions by the RBI following the discovery of a Rs 4,355 crore scam. Deposit withdrawals have been capped at Rs 40,000 over a six-month period, causing panic and distress among depositors.
Bijlani, a post-graduate in medicine, allegedly ended her life by taking an overdose of sleeping pills at her residence in suburban Versova late Monday evening, police said, adding that she had deposits of over Rs 1 crore with the bank. However, the police also said that Bijlani, who had remarried recently, suffered from chronic depression, and had also tried to end her life earlier when she was in the US.
No suicide note has been found, and further investigations are on, officials said.
Gulati's death, however, is being linked to the situation with the bank, because various reports and accounts of the family members suggest he was in financial distress. Gulati was a victim of double whammy; he had lost his job with Jet Airways after the airline was grounded in April following the bankruptcy. He has a specially-abled son whose treatment requires over Rs 25,000 a month, and they were struggling to pay his tuition fees, family members said.
Accompanied by his 80-year-old father, Sanjay participated in the depositors' protest in south Mumbai on Monday morning. Later, while having a late lunch at his house in suburban Oshiwara, he collapsed, his family said. He was rushed to a nearby hospital which declared him dead. "He had lost his job and was extremely stressed for the last few days after the bank crisis.
The family was struggling to pay tuition fees for their specially-abled son who needs special education and special medical attention, entailing high expenditure, she said.
Gulati's father said they had a deposit of over Rs 90 lakh with the bank. "Many retired people have their accounts there, many are struggling. How do you run the house? People have deposits ranging from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 2 crore stuck at PMC Bank. One of my friends was to undergo an operation," a senior citizen participating in a candlelight march outside Gulati's home said on Tuesday evening.
Manali Narkar, one of the agitating depositors, said Gulati participated in the protest and went home a dejected man. "What else we can do? We have nowhere to go to get our hard-earned money back, nor do we have any concrete assurances," she said.
Punjabi (59), meanwhile, died Tuesday while he was on the way to the bank around 12:30 pm. He suffered a massive heart attack and was taken to the Gokul hospital, but was declared brought dead. Neighbours said he had Rs 8-10 lakh in his savings bank account and a couple of fixed deposits with the PMC bank as well.
Punjabi ran a small hardware store in Mumbai and was reportedly under pressure with respect to payments to vendors as his working capital was frozen in his current account with the PMC Bank, The Times of India reported.
On Monday evening — the same day Gulati and Bijlani died — the withdrawal cap was hiked from Rs 1,000 to Rs 40,000, with the RBI saying it will give relief to 77 percent of depositors.
Real estate firm HDIL allegedly accounted for 70 percent of the bank's Rs 9,000 crore advances. According to the Mumbai Police's Economic Offences Wing, HDIL's loans turned Non-Performing Assets, but the bank management hid this from the RBI's scrutiny.
Meanwhile, ruling Shiv Sena's Members of Parliament Rahul Shewale, Gajanan Kirtikar, Arvind Sawant and Anil Desai called on RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das, and requested the RBI to merge PMC Bank with a state-run lender like Bank of Baroda or Punjab National Bank, or with a private sector one like ICICI Bank or HDFC Bank.
Real estate firm HDIL, which is PMC's Bank's main borrower, has quality assets which have been provided as collateral, the Sena leaders said in the memorandum.
"We are of the opinion that acquiring the bank will find sufficient value in the merger. We request you to accord this top priority to restore customer confidence in the banking system," the memorandum said.
It cited past examples such as the merger of Sangli Bank with ICICI. "You may consider requesting state and central governments for the recapitalisation of the bank. The RBI should also consider lifting direction to the bank based on assurance/indemnity provided by the big/bulk depositors so that the bank can revive by undertaking its day to day operations. The depositors can be asked to give assurance/indemnity to the effect that they would not withdraw for a period of three to five years," the memorandum said.
The Economic Offences Wing has arrested four persons including HDIL promoters and former top officials of the bank.
PMC Bank is a multi-state scheduled urban co-operative bank with operations in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It has a network of 137 branches. Some officials of the bank are accused of colluding with private firm HDIL to disburse loans fraudulently that ultimately caused a loss of Rs 4,355 crore to the lender.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Oct 16, 2019 10:59:19 IST