A 21-day coronavirus lockdown - the world's largest - is wreaking havoc on India, where more than a quarter of its 1.3 billion people live below the poverty line. As the economic and human toll of the lockdown deepened and criticism mounted over a lack of adequate planning before the decision, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised for the sweeping restrictions . The unprecedented lockdown has stung millions of poor in the world's second-most populous country, leaving many hungry and forcing jobless migrant labourers to flee cities and walk hundreds of kilometres to their native villages. Rickshaw pullers, itinerant produce peddlers, maids, day labourers and other informal workers form the backbone of the Indian economy, comprising about 85 percent of all employment, according to official data. It is important that the government intervenes and provides them money for their rent immediately," opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said in a letter to Modi on Sunday. In capital New Delhi, tens of thousands of people, mostly young male day labourers but also families, fled their homes as the daily-wage earners were effectively put out of work. The workers started fleeing New Delhi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the lockdown, which effectively put millions of Indians living off daily earnings out of work. Experts said local spreading is inevitable in a country where tens of millions of people live in dense urban areas in cramped conditions with irregular access to clean water. India went under the world's biggest lockdown on March 25, with nearly 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home in a bid to stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading and overwhelming its fragile healthcare system. A migrant worker carrying a fan walks along a road as he leaves India's capital for his home during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown.
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