Lockdown effect: Mass exodus from cities triggers village property disputes

Lockdown effect: Mass exodus from cities triggers village property disputes
Migrants wait outside Nampally Railway station to board a special train to reach their native places.
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Lucknow/Mumbai: Police in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, are dealing with a surge in property disputes. Millions of migrant workers fleeing to villages after losing their jobs in the cities sparked feuds over fields and family homes.

Uttar Pradesh, home to some 20 crore people, has seen lakhs of migrants return home during an extended nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Lockdown effect: Mass exodus from cities triggers village property disputes

Hundreds of thousands walked, cycled and hitch-hiked in the early weeks, but the exodus gathered pace in May, as the government began moving millions of people back in buses and trains.

Driven by hunger and the inability to pay rent, the exodus is causing tensions over limited resources in the villages.

Smriti Singh, an administrator in the village of Ratshar Kalan, said she was juggling between quarantining about 1,000 returnees and tackling family feuds.

"Fights over property happen every day. These cases all have similar a narrative," said Singh, adding most involved returning families quarrelling with relatives about ancestral homes and property.

Lockdown effect: Mass exodus from cities triggers village property disputes

Two officials told Reuters that police recorded more than 80,000 property dispute complaints between May 1 and May 20, more than double the 38,000 cases recorded in April.

In comparison, the officials said the state had recorded a total of 49,000 complaints over ownership of homes, commercial properties and agricultural land, between January and March.

Lockdown effect: Mass exodus from cities triggers village property disputes

The officials, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, said they expect such incidents to keep rising as migrants flock home.

The state government did not respond to a request for comment.

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