83-year-old perishes in eternal PMC wait, needed funds for bypass surgery

Mumbai: The ongoing Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative bank crisis claimed another life on Friday. PMC customer Murlidhar Dhara died of a heart attack while waiting to withdraw money for his bypass surgery. He is the fourth depositor to die this week.

Dhara, a resident of Mulund Colony, was a tea-seller. According to his relatives, Dhara had been suffering from a heart-related ailment for a long time.

He was in hospital and was scheduled to undergo a bypass surgery. His family was in the process of arranging funds for the operation when the scam broke and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) put restrictions on withdrawals.

Dhara, as well as his relatives, had accounts in the bank. The restrictions made it hard for his family to withdraw enough money for his treatment. The family had pleaded with the bank to release their money, but to no avail.

As per RBI directions, exceptional withdrawals can be made for medical emergencies. But it was not known immediately whether the PMC Bank had turned down a specific request from the family under this provision.

On Monday, accountholder Sunjay Gulati, 51, died of cardiac arrest at his residence in Oshiwara, hours after attending a protest outside a Mumbai court.

Gulati could not withdraw money for his physically challenged son’s treatment. He had Rs 90 lakh in the bank. Before this crisis, he had reportedly lost his job with Jet Airways.

The same night, a doctor, Nivedita Bijlani, 39, allegedly committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Though the police have said that the PMC crisis may not be the reason for her death, her family confirmed that she had an account with the bank.

The following day, another PMC customer, Fattomal Punjabi, 61, died of a heart attack while on his way to the bank. Fattomal had his life’s savings in the bank -- around Rs 10 lakh and some fixed deposits.

Some officials of the bank are accused of colluding with the private firm HDIL in the disbursement of fraudulent loans, ultimately causing a loss of Rs 4,355 crore to the lender and leaving depositors staring at the spectre of losing their savings.

The RBI had put restrictions on the bank's operations and depositors are now permitted to withdraw a maximum of Rs 40,000 from their account in six months.

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