India recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time as more states imposed lockdowns in a desperate bid to halt the devastating new COVID-19 surge.
The 4,187 new deaths took India's overall toll to 238,270 since the pandemic started. It added another 401,078 new cases in 24 hours taking its caseload to nearly 21.9 million - second only to the United States.
Health experts, who have expressed doubts about the official death toll, say the new wave may not hit a peak until the end of May, and there have been mounting calls for tough nationwide measures.
Morgues and crematoriums have struggled to handle the number of dead, and makeshift funeral pyres burn in parks and car parks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for his handling of an acute oxygen shortage, though the government says it is doing all it can.
The government, stung by criticism of its handling of the crisis, has largely left individual state administrations to handle pandemic clampdowns.
While major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai have been boosted by extra supplies of oxygen - much of it from abroad - and new hospital beds opened up, the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala all ordered lockdowns to counter an explosion in COVID cases.
The Hindu nationalist government imposed a three-month nationwide lockdown last year that helped halt the spread of the first major wave, but also caused huge economic damage.
There are fears the new surge could undermine the recovery in Asia's third-largest economy. The growing death toll has added to pressure for the government to act, however.
Opposition leader Gandhi said in his letter to the prime minister "your government's lack of a clear and coherent COVID and vaccination strategy ... has placed India in a highly dangerous position."
Modi had "to understand India's responsibility in a globalised and interconnected world" as "home to one out of every six human beings on the planet".
"Allowing the uncontrollable spread of this virus in our country will be devastating, not only for our people, but for the rest of the world."
The government did not immediately respond.
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