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Coming back with shattered hopes.
Image: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The overnight nationwide lockdown announced by prime minister Narendra Modi on March 24 forced over 10 million migrant labourers to return to their home states.

The northern state of Uttar Pradesh and the eastern state of Bihar witnessed the highest number of migrant returns, according to a written reply (pdf) by Santosh Kumar Gangwar, minister of the state of labour and employment in parliament today (Sept. 14).

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A majority of these migrants, probably, reached their homes on foot.

During the two-month-long lockdown in India, one of the strictest in the world, most industrial and commercial activity was halted. As a result, thousands of daily wagers struggled to live in the rented shanties of big cities. Since all modes of public transport were stopped due to the lockdown, millions of poor Indians walked hundreds of kilometres to reach their native places.

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The last time India witnessed such massive migration was at the time of partition in 1947 when 15 million people were displaced.