New Delhi – India’s cabinet on Tuesday approved 87.54 billion rupees that is $1.23 billion of funds for a census and population survey to be conducted next year, while fears are high that the database could be used to build a controversial citizens register which was bone of contention for the recent protests.
Thousands of Indians irrespective of religion and caste have taken to the streets to protest against the newly introduced controversial citizenship law by Indian parliament.
The law provides non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who moved here before 2015 a pathway to Indian citizenship.
Some of these protests have led to clashes between the police and demonstrators in which at least 21 people have been killed.
Majority of the Indians say the law discriminates against Muslims and violates India’s secular constitution by making religion a test for citizenship.
They say the law and a proposed national register of citizens could be used against the Muslim minority.
The approved budget is for conducting the census and additional 39.41 billion rupees for updating the National Population Register (NPR), Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters.
The census collects data on population, economy activity, social and cultural aspects, migration and demography, down to the lowest administrative level.
The NPR is intended to create a comprehensive identity database of every resident of India.
The census and population survey will start from April 2020 and Minister Javadekar stated that the census exercise had no relation with the national register of citizens.