Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said the sudden lockout announced by the central government to combat novel coronavirus has created immense panic and confusion.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he highlighted the plight of the poor and called for steps other than total lockdown announced by some developed nations to tackle the deadly disease.
"It is critical for us to understand that India's conditions are unique. We will be required to take different steps than other large countries who are following a total lockdown strategy," he said.
Gandhi said the number of poor people in India who are dependent on a daily income is too large to unilaterally shut down all economic activities in the wake of the pandemic.
"The consequences of a complete economic shut down will disastrously amplify the death toll arising from COVID-19," he feared.
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"The sudden lockdown has created immense panic and confusion, he said, adding factories, small industries and construction sites have closed, and tens of thousands of migrant labourers are undertaking an arduous journey to reach their home states. The Gandhi scion said the labourers have been rendered vulnerable without their daily wages or access to nutrition and basic services.
It is important that we help such sections find shelter and provide them with money directly into their bank accounts to help them tide over the next few months, he said.
The Congress leader added that a complete lockdown will almost certainly lead to millions of unemployed youths rushing to their villages, thus increasing the risk of infecting their parents and the elderly population living in villages.
"This will result in a catastrophic loss of life," he noted.
Gandhi called for a nuanced approach that takes the complex realities of our people into consideration.
"Our priority must be to protect and isolate the elderly and vulnerable from the virus, and to clearly and strongly communicate to the young the dangers of proximity to older people, he said.
With fresh deaths in six states, the death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 25 in the country and the total number of cases to 979 on Sunday, according to the Union Health Ministry.