Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the three-week countrywide lockdown imposed to mitigate the coronavirus crisis, and said the suddenness of the announcement has resulted in immense panic and confusion, PTI reported.

In a letter to the prime minister, Gandhi called for a “nuanced approach” that takes the “complex realities” of our people into consideration, instead of a complete lockdown which, he said, is better suited in the context of developed countries.

“The consequences of a complete economic shut down will disastrously amplify the death toll arising from Covid-19,” he said. “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.”

Gandhi said the number of 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. “Factories, small industries and construction sites have closed, and tens of thousands of migrant labourers are undertaking arduous journey to reach their home states,” he added. “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.”

As the 21-day nationwide lockdown entered its fifth day on Sunday, a mass exodus of migrant labourers has become a major cause of concern, as workers are trying to return home from large cities where they have lost sources of income and livelihood.

Gandhi said the complete lockdown will lead to millions of unemployed youth rushing back to their villages and with that increasing the risk of infecting others around them, especially the elderly population. “This will result in a catastrophic loss of life,” he said. “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 added.

The Narendra Modi-led government on Sunday told states and Union Territories to seal their borders, as migrant labourers attempted to return home on foot. The Centre said adequate arrangements should be made for shelter and food for the migrants in their places of work itself.

Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 patients who have died in India rose to 25 on Sunday morning – an increase of six since the previous government update. Sixty-one new patients were confirmed across the country, taking the number of cases to 979. Of these, 86 have now recovered.