Woman says money transfer company denied her cash over her religion

April 4, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

A woman has alleged that one of the Gurgaon branches of financial services company Western Union refused to hand over money in cash, transferred to her by a friend abroad, on the grounds that their religions are different. The woman said she is Christian, while her friend who transferred the money is Hindu. The alleged incident took place at one of the bank’s agents, The Muthoot Group, in Gurgaon’s Sector 10A on Friday afternoon. The woman, Melanie D Martin, who lives in Sector 90 and is an All India Professionals’ Congress (AIPC) member, had gone to the branch to access money transferred to her by a friend in Dubai.

“I found the branch on the Western Union website and went there since it was closest to my home. As per procedure, I filled out the forms and handed over my identification and documents… while going through the documents, the bank employee stopped to confirm my name and my religion,” alleged Martin.

“When he discovered I am Christian, he said I was not eligible to get the money in cash since the transfer was between people from two different religions. When the branch manager was called, she confirmed this and said I could only be given a cheque,” alleged Martin, who left the branch without the money. In videos recorded by Martin, an employee is purportedly seen sitting behind a counter, nodding his head as she asks: “Toh ye hamesha hi Hindu-Muslim waala karte hain?… Hindu hai, Muslim hai, you can’t take… Hindu Hindu ko milega, Muslim Muslim ko milega… toh Hindu Christian ko nahi milega?” It is only when she makes the last statement that he purportedly says that “alag koi sa bhi ho gaya toh nahi”.

In the videos, Martin can also be heard telling the employee across the counter that the rule is the handiwork of the branch manager, and not the Western Union. The branch head, Minakshi Pahwa, denied the allegations: “We never denied the money. We told her it could only be given via cheque, not cash, since the person who transferred the funds was not related to her. But she became aggressive and started abusing us…” Martin, however, claimed that a few weeks ago, she had successfully withdrawn money sent by the same friend.

Western Union officials did not respond to repeated attempts to contact them. In a response to Martin’s video, which she posted on Twitter, the company said: “We are deeply sorry for this incident and want to make sure you know that our business decisions are never made on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, or disability. Our specialised team is already investigating this matter to ensure Western Union policies are fully adhered to by our independent agents.” The Muthoot Group refused to comment. According to its website, Western Union completed over 800 million transactions for consumer and business clients in 2017. It claims to have over 5,50,000 agent locations, and 1,50,000 ATMs and kiosks in over 200 countries around the globe.

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