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They will be completed before State is formally declared a Union Territory

Dry and deserted: CRPF jawans stand guard during restrictions in Srinagar on Tuesday to prevent Muslims from taking part in Muharram processions. Nissar Ahmad The Hindu

The schedule for the elections to 316 Block Development Councils (BDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced in a day or two, with the polls to be completed before the State is formally declared a Union Territory on October 31.

Senior sources in the Union Home Ministry confirmed this development to The Hindu. The elections will take forward the process towards full devolution to rural and urban local bodies. After the December 2018 panchayat elections, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah announced their intention to hold these polls.

All ready

The sources said everything is ready for the elections, including the preparation of the electoral rolls, as the exercise was expected to follow the panchayat elections. But it was held up because of the Lok Sabha election.

“The BDC polls were expected to follow in March, but it was decided that the conduct of the Lok Sabha election would take up much of the resources and were, therefore, postponed,” said an official.

The government has been keen to get panchayat elections “completed”, including taking the next step to BDCs and the Zilla Panchayat polls. According to senior government sources, the top leadership of the government has been keen to complete the devolution of power to panchayats, considering it an important move towards “grassroots democracy” and creating new political leadership.

The panchayat polls also unlocked the ₹2,700 crore funds earmarked for Jammu and Kashmir under the 14th Finance Commission.

‘Terrorism is the worst form of abuse’

India on Tuesday declared that Pakistan was trying to polarise the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to advance its agenda in South Asia.

Speaking in response to multiple Kashmir-centric statements from Pakistan at the UN body’s 42nd Regular Session in Geneva, an Indian diplomat shed light on the contradiction between Pakistan’s attempts to champion human rights in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the denial of the same rights to various communities within Pakistan.

“Jammu and Kashmir has been, is and shall continue to be an integral part of India. Pakistan’s nefarious designs will never succeed because the people of India are united in their determination to preserve our territorial integrity, along with our core values of democracy, tolerance and unity in diversity,” said First Secretary Vimarsh Arya of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Geneva.

The Indian diplomat highlighted the discrimination faced by the minority religious communities and sects in Pakistan and stated that Islamabad had forgotten that “terrorism is the worst form of human rights abuse”.

“Despite challenging circumstances, Jammu and Kashmir's Civil Administration is ensuring basic services, essential supplies, normal functioning of institutions, mobility and nearly full connectivity. Democratic processes have been initiated. Restrictions are being eased continuously,” said Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, who led the special diplomatic team at Geneva.

Trade, Chabahar port work hit: Iranian Ambassador

Ali Chegeni. Sandeep SaxenaThe Hindu

India’s decision to shut down oil imports from Iran owing to sanctions imposed by the United States is also hurting India-Iran bilateral trade and India’s future in the Chabahar port, Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni said.

In the first public comments about the government’s decision to fall in line with the U.S. sanctions and “zero out” oil purchases after May 2 this year, he said India had “fought hard for its independence” and should not have given in to “unilateral sanctions” from the U.S.

“It is now official that India has stopped importing oil from Iran because of what it says is its own national interest,” Mr. Chegeni told members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents on Monday.

“If there are no oil payments due from India, how can we buy from India? We will have to go to other markets as we can’t stop our people’s needs. This is India’s sovereign decision, but others have chosen differently,” he added, comparing India’s decision unfavourably to those of China, Russia, and Turkey, which continue their energy ties with Iran.

Of greater possible concern for New Delhi was the Iranian Ambassador’s outlook for the Chabahar port, where India’s construction of the Shahid Beheshti terminal since 2016 is a key component of its trade and connectivity routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan.

Despite the U.S. sanctions waiver for Chabahar, Mr. Chegeni said that India’s development work had been “very slow”, and that trade to Afghanistan was “much lower” than it should be.

He also said that in view of the delay over India’s plans to build a railway line connecting Chabahar port to the Afghan border at Zahedan, the Iranian government had decided to complete the railroad through its own resources by 2021.

Case will now come up for hearing on November 5

Shehla Rashid

A Delhi court has granted protection from arrest till November 5 to Shehla Rashid, former vice-president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, in a sedition case.

Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Kumar Jain ordered the protection while hearing an application for anticipatory bail by Ms. Rashid.

“Considering all the facts, I am of the view that the matter requires investigation in detail. Accordingly, the accused shall not be arrested till November 5. However, she shall join the investigation as and when called by the investigating officer,’’ the Judge said.

The case will now come up for hearing on November 5 when the court will take up her bail application.

Earlier, the public prosecutor informed the court that the police had not even issued a notice to the accused, adding that the probe agency would require at least six weeks to investigate the complaint.

On being asked by the court, the prosecutor said the police had not received any complaint from the Army in the matter.

Ms. Rashid moved the court for anticipatory bail following lodging of a case by the Delhi Police on a complaint by a local lawyer on her tweets regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir after the withdrawal of the special status to the State. An FIR was registered earlier this month.

NCR is home to 10 unicorns, with one new unicorn emerging each year: study

With more than 7,000 start-ups, the Delhi-NCR area now has the largest number of active start-ups in the country, pipping cities like Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai, according to a report by TiE Delhi-NCR and consulting firm Zinnov released on Tuesday.

As per the report ‘Turbocharging Delhi-NCR Start-up Ecosystem’, Delhi-NCR accounted for 23% of the start-ups with a cumulative value of $50 billion. The National Capital Region (NCR) includes cities such as Gurugram, Noida and Faridabad.

“The NCR is home to 10 unicorns, with at least 1 new unicorn emerging each year since 2013,” the study said. While 7,039 start-ups were founded in Delhi-NCR between 2009 and 2019, the number stood at 5,234 for Bengaluru, followed by 3,829 in Mumbai, 1940 in Hyderabad, 1593 in Pune and 1,520 in Chennai.

Interestingly, Delhi-NCR also houses three of the four most valuable listed internet companies in India, namely Infoedge, Makemytrip and Indiamart. The only one not to be headquartered in Delhi NCR is Justdial.

Across sectors

The report noted that the region has a healthy mix of start-ups across sectors with the maximum number of over 2,650 start-ups in the consumer product and services space, followed by enterprise products (1,767), e-commerce (1,690), health (815) and edtech (763).

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