Two weeks after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed restrictions on Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank Ltd’s (PMC Bank) and its customers, things may be limping back to normalcy for the lender’s harried clients. While they cannot access their deposits for the next six months and can only withdraw up to ₹25,000, they have been able to open accounts in other banks for managing their day-to-day life.
Yet, for many old-time loyal customers of PMC Bank, the experience with other banks hasn’t been that great either. “I opened an account with Canara Bank, but they don’t have cheque books. The bank is saying it will take 20 days to get a cheque book," said Raja Singh, a railway contractor, who had both savings and current accounts in PMC Bank.
Sukhdev Singh Kalsi, owner of a container transportation business, also narrated a similar experience. “I’m facing a lot of problems with opening a bank account. It took me six-seven days to open an account with HDFC Bank. Bharat Co-operative Bank wanted me to open an account with them. But I’m not going to risk it anymore with cooperative banks. I had three current accounts in PMC Bank. All my loans and rent were debited from these accounts," he said.
While protests are on to recover the money, PMC Bank customers facing family or medical emergencies have written to RBI seeking its help. The central bank has agreed to transfer up to ₹1 lakh per person in such situations. But the customers complain that the amount is too little to meet their expenses.
A customer narrated the travails of a fellow customer: “A transport operator in Kalamboli had sold off two of his trucks for ₹8 lakh each, hoping to use the money to send his son to study abroad. He deposited part of this money with PMC Bank and the next day the bank shut down. His son, who was supposed to leave for studies, is now stuck here." Mint could not independently verify these claims.
Also, with Diwali round the corner, many businesses and housing cooperative societies are finding it difficult to make payments to their workers and vendors.
“We have to pay bonus for workers. We haven’t been able to pay salary, electricity and water bills. We are now in the process of opening a new account in Saraswat Co-operative Bank which is close to our building. But that is also a cooperative bank," said Raj Pal Premi, secretary of Oshiwara Basera Cooperative Housing Society that had kept ₹10 lakh in a current account in PMC Bank. “We have requested our members to give maintenance for three-four months so that we can meet the expenses."
Jaspal Singh, chairman of the Maharashtra Tank Lorry Owners’ Association, said that PMC Bank had given bank guarantees for purchase of diesel from oil marketing companies. These bank guarantees are now invalid and the transport operators have requested the RBI administrator to look into the matter. “These guarantees were given against property or fixed deposits (FDs). We have asked RBI to release this security so that we could renew the bank guarantee with some other bank," he said.
Large customers with more than ₹1 crore deposits are exploring with the RBI administrator various mechanisms to revive the bank, including a proposal for FDs to be retained in the bank for the next three years.
“Large depositors have agreed not to break their FDs so that the bank can be revived," said Jaspal Singh, a member of the supreme council for gurdwaras in Navi Mumbai. “We will soon be taking written assurances from these depositors and will send it to RBI," he added.
Meanwhile, protests and meetings are continuing across the city. On 2 October, nearly 1,500 depositors gathered at Guru Nanak Higher Secondary School in GTB Nagar in the eastern suburb to find a way to recover their money. Customers blamed the government and RBI for what they called their lackadaisical approach.
“The government can implement Article 370 in no time, then what is stopping them from helping 16 lakh bank depositors of PMC bank," asked one depositor.