Mumbai: Several housing societies affected by the cash withdrawal restrictions of Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) bank have threatened to boycott the upcoming assembly elections if the issue is not resolved.
The central bank had restricted activities of PMC Bank for six months capping the withdrawals at Rs 1,000 per account and asked the bank to not grant or renew any loans and advances, make any investment or incur any liability, including borrowing of funds and acceptance of deposits.
The decision sent shock waves among thousands of its depositors. At least three residential complexes in the western suburbs of Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road in Mumbai have launched a campaign to boycott the assembly polls and put up posters with the message, ‘No Solution, No Vote’.
Chandar Purswani is a resident of Mumbai’s RNA Heights complex. Ever since the restrictions were imposed, he has been unable to pay his bills, file his taxes and even provide wages of labour. “Everyone in our society has an account with the PMC bank and as per government rules, we kept our money in a cooperative bank. But how do we function now?” he says. “Our lives have come to a standstill.”
RBI said the directions were necessitated on account of major financial irregularities, failure of internal control and systems of the bank and wrong or under-reporting of its exposures under various off-site surveillance reports. However, for common people, the decision has spelled a logistical crisis bringing their lives to a grinding halt.
At the Greenfield society, the staff has not been paid their wages. The residential complex has deposits to the tune of Rs one crore at the PMC. With the money inaccessible, all maintenance work for the society has been suspended. “We can’t pay the workers. Many from the staff have their accounts in the PMC bank and are facing even bigger problems,” says Raju Agarwal, a resident.
Haridwar Jaiswal is one such individual. He works as the security guard at the RNA Heights and has been unable to access his own money. “I have not received my monthly salary. It’s my daughter’s wedding in December and I don’t have the funds to make any arrangements. Who will help me?” he says.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had, last week, increased the withdrawal limit from Rs 10, 000 to 25,000 after several account holders gathered outside the Sion branch of the bank in Mumbai.
The Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) on Thursday arrested two directors of the real estate firm Housing Development and Infrastructure Limited (HDIL). — Rakesh Wadhawan and his son Sarang Wadhawan — in the case, and froze property worth several thousand crores.
While these measures were looked at as positive developments, most of the people still await getting access to their money again.
“Arrest of HDIL promoters is great news but we want the RBI and government to come out and make a statement on when the innocent depositor’s money will be returned,” says Rohit Jaindiney, who is also an account holder of the PMC bank. He hopes for an instantaneous government intervention and the speedy ‘arrest of conspirators.’ “Recovery of money can then happen parallel,” he says.
Apart from Kirit Somaiya of the BJP and Sanjay Nirupam from the Congress, no major political leaders have come in support of PMC bank account holders. The issue is likely to play out against the major political contenders in the upcoming Maharashtra assembly elections, if it remains unresolved.
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