‘Under stress’, three PMC Bank depositors die within 24 hours

Gargi Verma
Sanjay Gulati (left); Fattomal Punjabi

OVER THREE weeks after the RBI moved against PMC Bank for various irregularities, and imposed a curb on withdrawals, three of the cooperative bank’s account-holders, including a 51-year-old who had lost his job with the defunct Jet Airways in April, died over the last 24 hours in Mumbai.

Two of the deaths have been attributed to heart attacks with families and friends claiming that they were under “severe stress”. The third death was that of a 39-year-old doctor, who was “suffering from depression” and committed suicide, police said.

Former Jet Airways senior technician Sanjay Gulati died after having a meal at his home in Oshiwara Monday night while Fattomal Punjabi (59) collapsed around Tuesday noon at his electronics shop in Mulund’s Sindhi Colony. On Tuesday evening, Dr Yogita Bijlani, who had moved to Mumbai from the US last year, took an overdose of sleeping pills.

Read |‘Trying our best to stabilise PMC Bank; have already hiked withdrawal limit to Rs 40,000’

Gulati, who had been participating in protests against the bank, leaves behind a family of five, including his mother Varsha, father C L Gulati, wife Megha and two sons aged 18 and 10. “He had accounts only in PMC Bank, all his money was there,” said his 80-year-old father.

Punjabi’s friends said he was suffering from losses in business and that his wife and son-in-law had died within a few months of each other earlier this year. “The Diwali season was approaching and he was worried about his business,” said K T Tyagnani, a family friend.

Read in Tamil here.

Bijlani was with her husband in Columbia (South Carolina) before moving to Mumbai last year. She was staying with her parents and one-year-old son in Andheri West. “She was suffering from depression. We haven’t found any suicide note on her. According to her family, she had tried to commit suicide in Columbia a couple of years ago, too,” said a senior police officer.

According to Gulati’s friends and family, he returned home Monday evening from a protest at Killa court. “He was hungry, and his wife served him food. He suffered an attack while consuming food and collapsed,” his father said.

Gulati was cremated Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know what we will do now. I have lost my son, there’s no bigger loss,” said the father.

Gulati’s family said he was a “healthy man but suffered from stress”. “He had no complaints of hypertension or blood pressure. This was the first heart attack. He was in a lot of stress though. His older son has special needs. He needed money to pay for his son’s treatment and therapy,” said his brother-in-law Ashok Narula.

Gulati’s family said he moved to Mumbai in 1992 and started an account at PMC Bank as its local branch was a few metres from his house at MHADA Colony in Oshiwara. Anhad Kant, another PMC account-holder, recalled spotting Gulati at the Killa court area for the protest. “He was chanting slogans. Even after several others left, he stayed till 4 pm,” Kant said.

“I can’t imagine that a man who had been sloganeering with us a few hours back is no more. It is making us all contemplate. We will think twice before calling for a protest now,” said Deven Oberoi, another account-holder.

Gulati’s father said he moved in with his son recently after working on a contractual basis for a firm in Bangkok. “For my old age, I had kept an account at SBI and other co-operative banks. I am now breaking those to help the family out,” he said.

In Mulund, there was a small gathering of mourners Tuesday at the shop where Punjabi had been doing business for years. Punjabi’s daughter Geetu had collapsed near the body and had to be carried home. “I have lost everything. I don’t know what to do anymore,” she said.

“He complained of breathlessness and collapsed at 12.30 pm. By the time we took him to hospital, he had passed away,” said Kanhaiya Taneja, a neighbour. “To support his family, he used to run vans to transport school children in the area but stopped that some months ago,” said another neighbour.

According to his friends, Punjabi had savings and current accounts at PMC’s Mulund branch. “He would always be busy in welfare activities and in helping the community,” said H T Vishnani, a neighbour.

Bijlani had fixed deposits worth Rs 90 lakh in the Andheri West branch of PMC, police said. “It’s not clear if she committed suicide because of the bank issue. We are investigating all angles, and a report of accidental death has been filed,” said a police officer.

In September, RBI placed restrictions on withdrawals from PMC Bank for various irregularities, including Rs 6,200 crore stuck with the HDIL group promoted by the Wadhawans. The limit on withdrawals was Rs 1,000 initially and later hiked in stages to Rs 40,000.