Nearly a month after the RBI clamped down on the operations of scam-hit PMC Bank, the depositors say their woes have only worsened, with some unable to pay school fees of their wards, while others finding it difficult to meet medical expenses.
Many fear that they might lose their lifetime earnings deposited in savings accounts, or in the form of fixed deposits. Businessmen like M A Chaudhary complained that they were unable to either pay salaries to their workers, nor pay taxes or even the electricity bills after the cheques issued by the PMC Bank bounced.
So far, three depositors have lost their lives, apparently due to the crisis. Established in 1984 in Sion in central Mumbai, the bank now has branches in six states but most of them are concentrated in the metropolises of Mumbai and Delhi.
On September 24, the bank's Managing Director Joy Thomas sent an SMS to its depositors about the Reserve Bank of India imposing regulatory restrictions, capping the withdrawals up to Rs 1,000 for six months.
Since then, he has been arrested, along with the promoters of Housing Development Infrastructure Limited (HDIL) Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan, in an alleged fraud case. After protests from account holders, the RBI raised the amount to Rs 10,000 and then to Rs 40,000 earlier this month. However, the depositors, who have deposited lakhs and in some cases even crores in the bank, said the amount is too less even to meet the monthly expenses.
Tek Chand (71), a retired government servant and a resident of Janakpuri in west Delhi, said his family has over Rs 18 lakh deposited in the Tilak Nagar branch of the bank. His wife has to undergo dialysis which costs him Rs 10,000 per month and half his monthly pension goes into it. There are many like Chand whose source of sustenance is the interest they get from their fixed deposits.
Anuradha Sen (61), a resident of Malviya Nagar in south Delhi, said she deposited Rs 15 lakh in the bank. "My livelihood is dependent on the interest from it," she said. Sen said she was also upset with the government for not doing enough to help the account holders get back their hard earned money.
"I am annoyed. We gave them a thumping majority not to put us in this crisis. If this continues, I am surely not going to vote in their favour next election," she said. Malviya Nagar resident Ravindra Kumar Jha (40), an interior designer by profession, said he was struggling to pay the school fees of his two children and manage the household expenses.
He said he has Rs 32 lakh deposits in his PMC Bank account but cannot access them. Jha also complained of blood pressure after the irregularities in the bank surfaced. "I have two school going kids. I need to manage their fees and household expenses. Recently, I met with an accident and I have not recovered yet. I never had a blood pressure problem, and now with each passing day, it is becoming difficult to survive in Delhi. Sometimes I feel like committing suicide.
"I had planned to start a new business this Navratri. Unfortunately, I deposited the surplus cash of Rs 4 lakh that I had kept for emergency. Now I feel so helpless. It is my hard-earned money," he said. M A Chaudhary, another businessman, said he has deposits of Rs 35 lakh in savings account and Rs 16 lakh in his current account but he is not able to access his money.
"A PMC Bank cheque issued to pay electricity bills bounced because no one would process it. I do not have money even to pay my quarterly GST," Chaudhary said. For several depositors, the PMC Bank scam has shattered their trust in the banking system.
Gurjyot Singh Keer (25) was eight when he first opened an account in the bank's Mulund west branch in northwest Mumbai under the 'Baal Bachat Yojana'. The lender has been central to the Keers, residents of Mulund west, and the family members have a deposit of over Rs 3 crore.
"I was in awe of the bank since my childhood. Our family always believed in cash and I fought with them saying depositing money in banks is good. Today, I am fighting for the same money stuck in the bank," 25-year-old Keer, who runs a coaching institute, said.
There has been a domino effect of the crisis, where the whole "circle of money" has stopped, he said. Students hailing from the Mulund area, a lot of whose families have accounts in the bank, are unable to pay their fees, Keer said, adding he is also not able to pay his teachers who are paid on a weekly basis as the money is stuck.
Twenty-four year-old Manali Narkar, a resident of Kanjurmarg in northwest Mumbai, said her family has been banking with the PMC since last 27 years. The biology teacher and her family have over Rs 28 lakh in accounts with the bank. It was the good service that made Narkar and her family continue with the bank, she said.
"I am losing my patience and money with every passing day. I have put all my hard earned money in the bank and this is what I get in the end. What wrong did I do that I am being made to beg for my own money?" 71-year-old Chand asked.