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Quake, stock market crash, and now run on banks Friday, March 16, 2001
AHMEDABAD: On January 26, Dimple Mehta was forced on to the streets when the ill-fated Shikhar Apartments came crashing down in the killer quake. Barely a month-and-half later, Mehta finds himself shaken by yet another quake, this time a financial one.
With savings worth Rs 20,000, his last anchor to remain afloat in the post-quake crisis, locked away in the now cash-strapped Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank, Mehta is at his wits ends as to how to cope with the unending saga of misery and mental agony that life has become.
Mehta is one among thousands of Amdavadis who suddenly find themselves caught between not one, not two but three crisis - earthquake devastation compounded by the crashing stock markets and now the run on the scheduled and co-operative banks.
The endless queues before the co-operative banks' branches in the city had many survivors of the earthquake for whom the nightmare which started on January 26 never seems to end. And with Gujarat having the largest per-capita investment in the stock markets, the financial blow came much before the banking crisis.
"In these two months, life has become a constant struggle for survival. Barely does one try to come out of one crisis, another comes crashing straight on your head," rues an Income-Tax employee faced with the predicament of supporting a family of six without a roof on his head and not a penny in savings to fall back on.
Little did Diren Patel realise, when his apartment Swapna Siddha was badly damaged in the earthquake, that his woes were just beginning. The tumble in the capital market did not leave his family unscathed either.
The quake destroyed the office where his brother used to work and even the school, where his father worked, temporarily closed down, adding to the financial crisis. "Extreme demands of landlords and monetary requirements for repair had already left us in deep crisis. And now the problem of co-operative banks has left us mentally drained," said Patel.
Patel said all the savings of his family were deposited in the co-operative banks in the city. "We have a locker in the ADC Bank and my family members have accounts in Madhavpura as well as Kalupur Bank," Patel said. His younger brother Rohit had queued up at the Satellite Branch of Madhavpura Bank for the whole day only to return empty-handed.
Cloth merchant Suresh Hingrajani (name changed) has gone into acute depression and considers death as the only escape route from the mess that his life has become in the past two months. "What is left on this earth for me now. I have lost my house and now earnings of my entire life have gone down the drain. How will I marry my two daughters? I see no answers..... the only option is death," he confessed at the Sabarmati General Hospital.
Suresh has apparently lost lakhs in the scrips of a television network. Neck-deep in financial debts, his only solace was fixed deposits worth a few lakh, certificates of which are stashed away in the lockers of the Madhavpur Mercantile Bank. With the bank downing its shutters, his lifeline to emerge winner out of the financial mess stands temporarily snapped, a fact that his stressed out brain refuses to accept. "I have advised his family to put him under observation at the hospital because of his suicidal tendencies, but apparently they are in no position to afford hospitalisation costs," conceded psychiatrist Mrugesh Vaishnav.
"The trust of the people stands badly shaken. This fresh bout of panic is bound to compound the insecurity left by the quake. While a few people will emerge stronger, a large number might simply give in to the depressions attached with such insecurities about life and money," says psychologist Hansal Bhachech.
Says another psychiatrist Vinod Goyal, "For many earthquake victims, the pressures of more financial losses are becoming too much to handle. Every time they try to piece their lives together, some new problem crops up. But, we must admire the resilience of the people. Some of them must be cracking up inside."