PMC protest outside RBI
Depositors of the crisis-hit Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank protested outside the Reserve Bank headquarters here on Saturday, demanding the return of their money that remains stuck under a regime of restricted withdrawals.
The day witnessed the death of a PMC Bank depositor — the fifth in five days — but family members of Ram Arora said he had died of old age and not because of the bank scam or the resultant cash curbs,
Around 100 depositors, including several women, held up placards and chanted slogans against the PMC Bank and the RBI outside the central bank’s office, a police officer said. He said the police presence ensured peace and nobody was detained.
After a Rs 4,355-crore scam came to light at the PMC Bank, the RBI initially capped withdrawals at Rs 1,000 keeping in mind the liquidity crisis, and later hiked it to Rs 40,000.
The crisis at the bank is being attributed to loans given to realty player HDIL turning into non-performing assets. The loans had allegedly been hidden from the regulator’s scrutiny. Five people, including HDIL promoters and top executives of the bank, have been arrested.
Arora, a senior citizen, died in suburban Mulund. “It was a natural death. He was a senior citizen. The death is not related to the bank scam,” a relative said.
Arora’s family said he was not solely dependent on the funds in his PMC Bank account.
Murlidhar Dharra, an 83-year-old PMC Bank depositor and Mulund resident, had died on Friday with his family claiming they could not raise money for his heart surgery because of the restrictions on withdrawals.
One of the earlier deaths had been caused by a heart attack, another by a cardiac arrest while the third was an alleged suicide by a woman doctor.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the state government would explore the possibility of merging the PMC Bank with other banks.
“Unfortunately, a revival package for the PMC Bank is not in the jurisdiction of the state government, but with the RBI,” Fadnavis told reporters.
“But the state government can facilitate the merger of the bank with other banks. I have already spoken to the Prime Minister and the finance minister on this issue. I will again pursue the matter after (the Assembly) polls.”
Asked about the steps the BJP-Shiv Sena government had taken on the bank scam, Fadnavis said the accused had been arrested and their assets seized.
“Depending on the provisions of the (law), the state or the central government can auction the assets (of the accused) and pay the depositors,” he said, adding that the process might take time.
Fadnavis said bank deposits up to Rs 1 lakh were safe and insured. “The number of deposits (in the bank) holding funds less than Rs 1 lakh is more. The problem is with housing societies, religious institutions and individuals who have higher deposits,” he said.
“I will pursue the matter after the polling ends. Even though the issue is under the RBI’s jurisdiction, I will pursue (the matter) with the Centre to see that the depositors’ money is returned to them through whatever power at their disposal under law.”
Fadnavis said the model code of conduct had restricted the government from playing a more “proactive” role in the matter.