Depositors of Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) bank sat on a token hunger strike near the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) office in Fort on Thursday.
On September 23, 2019, the RBI had superseded the board of the multi-state urban cooperative bank and placed it under various regulatory restrictions after detection of certain financial irregularities. The depositors, many of them senior citizens, have been protesting for their hard-earned money. “Total 9 lakh depositors spread over 137 branches in seven states have been affected.37 % of total depositors are senior citizens, many of them relying on interest money. More than 100 depositors have died out of which four people have committed suicide including a 24-year-old young man,” said Nikhil Vora, victim and member of the PMC Bank Depositors Association. “We have been facing hardships in the past 14 months and the hunger strike is an attempt to draw attention. While properties have been seized, we are yet to benefit. We decided to sit on a hunger strike with a handful of people given the Covid-19 situation but were stopped by police,”
It can be noted that over Rs 11,000 crore in depositor money has been stuck after the RBI decided to put PMC Bank under instructions in September last year, and appointed an administrator on it after discovering mismanagement. The bank has been found to have given over Rs 6,700 crore loans to a single company - realty player HDIL - through allegedly fraudulent means and also hid the stress from the Reserve Bank of India by creating separate books of accounts.
Initially, the RBI had allowed depositors to withdraw Rs 1,000 which was later raised to Rs 1 lakh per account to mitigate their difficulties. In June this year, the RBI had extended the regulatory restrictions on the cooperative bank by another six months till December 22, 2020. PMC Bank depositors have spent the last year holding protests, meeting politicians, writing to various authorities in an effort to get their hard-earned money back.
According to the FIR, the embezzlement and misappropriation of the bank took place between 2008 and August 2019, wherein huge volumes of loans were allotted to HDIL and its' subsidiary firms by opening accounts in the PMC's central branch at Bhandup (w).
Though the loans defaulted, the outstanding money was never shown as the bank's Non-Performing Assets during the audits; neither was the RBI informed about it. Rather, separate fake accounts were created where lesser volumes of non-refundable loans were shown during audits.