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Palava’s In-House Concert Featuring The Merasis

July 11, 2016
Merasi concert cover

In the faraway dusty North-Western desert of Jaisalmer in India thrive the Merasis, a community that seems to be on the brink of being forgotten in the era of modernization. Merasi is a folk community descending from Rajasthan which is striving to compose, perform and sustain their vibrant musical legacy till date.

The community has carried their unique musical legacy for over 800 years. Even after being deemed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, the Merasi community continues to yearn for earnest appreciation and a heart-warming applause. A community of about 40,000 people in and around Jaisalmer, the Merasi community had been scorned as Manganiyars (beggars). They were treated as untouchables and did not attain basic rights such as education, political rights and healthcare. Even today, they struggle to be regarded as more than just Manganiyars. For about 40 generations, the Merasi have made a living by singing paeans at the temple of a local Hindu goddess named Bhatiyani, by performing at weddings, child-naming ceremonies and other events. Their music is a particular kind of Rajasthani folk sound that is lyrical and melodic yet full-bodied and vigorous. Originally Hindu, they were converted to Islam in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. But the Merasis’ loyalty to the goddess kept them anchored to their Hindu roots, making them one of India’s many contradictions – Muslim by name, and Hindu by custom and occupation, adding to their identity woes.

What makes the Merasi community’s music so appealing to their audience? Their tunes are not just musical notes played together, they have a soul of their own. They reflect their heritage by depicting stories of the community from birth to death and their array of songs are sung on different occasions, from Dussehra to Deepavali and even Holi. This talent and passion for folk music has fortunately found an anchor in Sarwar Khan, a local from Rajasthan who registered the Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan (LKSS) in Jaisalmer (India) to serve as the community centre for the Merasis. He was later joined by the New-York based non-profit, Fold Arts Rasjasthan (FAR), established in 2004 by Karen Lucas. Khan and Lucas work together to provide a thriving and unprejudiced future for the talented yet unrecognized community.

How are they helping the Merasis to keep their dream alive? The Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan (LKSS) and Folk Arts Rajasthan (FAR) have created a special course which caters to both the academic and musical needs of the Merasis. Children who are academically inclined and are exceptional students get chosen to become mentors for other children. Folk Arts Rajasthan (FAR) hosts several gatherings at Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan (LKSS) where they invite children from Jaisalmer and other rural villages to share knowledge, play music together, and work towards empowering the community and increasing their self-worth. They have formulated a series of activities to preserve the Merasi sound. Volunteers and students come together and regularly add recordings to the growing archives housed in New York.

FAR accompanies Merasi to Mumbai for an annual trip where they perform and get to explore the city. This helps them showcase their talent to other people and is instrumental in preserving their legacy. Merasi themselves have created the ‘Merasi Legacy Project.’ Students gain access to stories of their community and record them to compile it into a collection, which is used by them as a source of inspiration for their music.

On the 26th of June, Palava got an opportunity to host these legendary Merasis! The citizens of Palava watched in awe as the musicians showcased their legacy while rendering soulful tunes at the Lodha World School. The love and passion for their music was evident on the faces of the Merasi musicians whose devotion and enchanting renditions mesmerised the audience. There were cheers of appreciation and tears of joy!

The Merasi Musical Concert was hosted by an active Palava citizen’s group called The Renaissance Group. This group aims to form a city community wherein like-minded individuals can enjoy and participate in engaging activities in and around Palava. The sheer dedication and passion of the group members resulted in Palava witnessing folk music at its best.

Even as the Merasi persevere to sustain their music today, their soulful tunes have managed to captivate many across the country but their struggles for basic rights still pose a threat to their dream.

Lend your support to the Merasi students so that they can always have “one hand on the pen, one hand on the drum and both hands on the dream.”

Do you wish to help the Merasi community? You can get in touch with Hanover Wadia, their official Mumbai representative at +91- 9000 494 4333 (mobile) or write to him at:

To know more about this musical folk group, visit- and

Smart Cities- The Rising Trend

June 25, 2016

Find out how urban city development initiatives are fulfiling India’s need to comply with the smart city trend.

Ever since the Narendra Modi-led NDA government assumed office in Delhi, the public discourse on urban development in India has been dominated by “smart cities”. However, debates on this topic have often been misinformed since there is a lack of clarity on what exactly a smart city is. Interestingly, the guidelines of the government’s Smart City Mission itself state that “there is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City” since “it means different things to different people”.

While globally the term has become synonymous with the use of technology and data for improving various aspects of a city, in India the usage has been less precise. Much of the initial discussion implied that smart cities would be entirely new cities. In fact, the 2014 election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party promised to build “100 new cities; enabled with the latest in technology and infrastructure”.

Hence, when the Modi government announced its plan to create “100 smart cities”, the presumption was that India would get 100 new cities. It was only in June 2015 when it officially launched the Smart City Mission that the contours of India’s smart city policy got some clarity.

One year after its launch, it’s now clear that the Smart City Mission is not about building 100 new cities– it instead aims to make existing cities, in fact only certain designated areas within them, smart. While the Mission also requires each city to have a pan-city initiative, the thrust is to develop a compact area within a city through retrofitting or redevelopment of an existing built-up area or greenfield development of a vacant area.

While smart cities in India are now closely identified with the Smart City Mission, the vacuousness of the term has led to it being invoked for various forms of urban development. If we examine just Mumbai and its surrounding areas, we can get a sense of how different kinds of smart cities are sought to be created in different locations.

The many smart cities of Mumbai

Under the Smart City Mission, there are four different smart cities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region- Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivili.

The smart city proposals of these cities focus on developing certain pockets of the city– Lower Parel in the case of Mumbai and Koperkhairane in the case of Navi Mumbai– and also promote the deployment of smart technologies. Interestingly, the municipal corporations of some of these cities had expressed reservations about the governance structure of the proposed smart cities and eventually, none of the cities in the region were selected in the first round of funding under the Mission.

Independent of the Smart City Mission, the City and Industrial Development Corporation, a state government agency, is developing the seven southern nodes– Kharghar, Kamothe, Kalamboli, Pushpak, Panvel, Ulwe and Dronagiri– in its Navi Mumbai (South) Smart City project. The Corporation also has a greenfield urban development project near the new Navi Mumbai airport called the Pushpak Nagar Smart City, spread across 230 hectares. Much of the developments in the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area, which covers 561 are also marketed as a “smart city”.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority is the other state agency which has caught the smart city bug. It is developing Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex as a smart city by providing Wi-Fi connectivity, surveillance systems and smart parking facility. It is also developing 5 hubs along the proposed 126-km Virar-Alibaug Multi-Modal Corridor– Vasai-Virar, Bhiwandi, Greater Kalyan, Greater Panvel and Pen-Alibaug– as smart cities.

Along with state agencies, there are also private players which are creating their own versions of smart cities in the Mumbai region. Palava built by the Lodha Group is the most prominent example of a private smart city. It has partnered with IBM to introduce smart governance through measures like intelligent security systems. Another interesting initiative near Mumbai is the Khalapur Smart City where a set of farmers in 11 villages have pooled 3,550 hectares of land to create an integrated township in partnership with the City and Industrial Development Corporation.

Smart Cities as a marketing trope

As the case of Mumbai illustrates, multiple avatars of smart cities are being built in various locations. The narrative on smart cities in India is hence not restricted to cities under the government’s Smart City Mission. Rather, the term is being invoked for a variety of modernist urban projects whether it’s building new cities, applying technological fixes to existing cities, development of hubs along industrial corridors, retrofitting certain areas within a city or building private townships. By invoking the term “smart city”, these varied urban developments are able to legitimise and market themselves better.

Indian cities are dominated by unplanned developments, an informal economy and messy local politics. This urban realty is increasingly coming under challenge in the post-liberalised era with private capital seeking to reshape the nature of the city. In this context, smart cities are being promoted by the state and the market to create more ordered forms of urban development. The term “smart city” has thus become a trope for promoting a variety of capital-driven planned urban initiatives that is at odds with the predominant forms of urban realty in India.

This article first appeared on Scroll.

Read more of this interesting article on Palava’s website! 

Let us know what you think of this article by leaving your comment below.

Palava’s Go Green Initiative

June 20, 2016
Palava laid the foundation of a green future for generations to come with the Go Green initiative that kickstarted in May last year. Organised by PCMA with the support of the citizens, this initiative encourages each to do their bit for the environment while enjoying fun weekends bonding with their neighbours.
The Go Green initiative held across the weekends saw young and old citizens plant over 5,000 saplings of various trees including Coconut and Sita Ashok, across the neighbourhoods of Palava. Guided by the city’s expert horticulturists, the citizens planted saplings from the Palava’s own nursery located at Posari, a few kilometres away from the city. With each passing weekend, citizens participated with double the enthusiasm, toiling with shovels and getting their hands dirty in the mud. 
Palava’s Go Green initiative has been immensely successful, thanks to the overwhelming support from its people. Citizens of all ages came out on the weekends, put on their caps and planted several saplings. While parents felt there was no better way to have their children bond with nature, children couldn’t get enough of the saplings and gave them each a nickname to remember!
Palava citizens appreciated the initiative that made their environment greener and cleaner. Owing to the success of the events and the spirit in which Palava citizens participated, Go Green initiative led to the onset of Go Green tours that took citizens to spend an afternoon at Palava’s nursery. Such has been the support towards this initiative that now Go Green activities are being featured regularly in the city calendar through the year. Today, Palava is home to over 20,000 trees and the number only keeps growing!


Solar Power Succeeds Through The Roof

June 16, 2016
Palava uses solar power

Find out how a higher solar power plant capacity of 525 MW and new technology is going to make the adoption rate of solar power go through the roof.

Educational institutions, commercial establishments and apartment complexes in India are increasingly turning to rooftop solar projects, reducing their power bills and carbon footprint.

India has an ambitious target of achieving 100 GW solar power capacity by 2022, of which 40 GW is expected to come from rooftop solar projects and the rest from other large and ultra mega solar power plants.

At the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, a rooftop solar project meets 20% of the power requirement within the campus. In late 2012, Mahindra Solar One, a Mahindra group firm, won a tender to install solar panels on the rooftops of buildings at the IIT at a cost of around Rs.7 crore. Rooftops of 13 of the academic buildings within the campus are now fitted with solar panels. The project has a total capacity of 1 MW and generates 1.5 million units of electricity in a year.

“Our power consumption is so high that whatever capacity of solar plants we put, it is always going to be less than actual consumption at any given time. So, whatever power we are producing, it is consumed in the campus, particularly within the academic areas like classes, laboratories or offices,” said Chetan Solanki, professor in the department of energy science and engineering at IIT Bombay.

Solanki said the institute has been able to save around Rs.75 lakh in power bills since it started using solar power. The total amount of electricity bill it currently pays is Rs.25-28 crore a year.

Solanki has also incubated a solar power company called Kwatt Solutions Pvt. Ltd at the institute’s incubation centre. So far, the firm has installed 500 kW of rooftop solar panels at four educational institutes in Indore, Hyderabad and Nagpur.

Others such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru are also looking at installing rooftop solar power plants.

IIM Bangalore currently uses solar power to heat 60,000 litres of water daily in its hostels, management development centre and all staff quarters. It is also used to generate steam for cooking at the hostel mess, where meals for around 1,000 students are cooked every day.

“We are planning to install a 300-400 kilowatt peak (kWP) capacity solar rooftop power plant. A feasibility study in regard has already been completed,” said Vasudeva M, Manager, electrical section (estates department), IIM Bangalore.

Similarly, IIM Ahmedabad is also looking at installing rooftop solar power plants at most of its new infrastructure within the campus.

Commercial buildings and offices are also plugging into solar energy. Many of the commercial buildings of India’s largest real estate company DLF Ltd, including three shopping malls, have been using solar power for the past three years.

Solar panels installed on the roofs of DLF’s commercial buildings have a total capacity of around 2 MW and can generate an estimated electricity of about 2.5 million units a year. An official of the company said the amount of electricity generated by these solar panels currently makes up only a small portion to its total consumption—in addition, the tariff paid is almost same as grid power.

“However, going forward, we expect solar-based electricity would be cheaper by about 20-25% than grid power. Right now, higher capex has been the biggest challenge so far. But that would soon be over once new technologies come in,” a DLF official said on the condition of anonymity.

Recently, Walmart India announced a plan to install rooftop solar power plants with a total capacity of 5 MW in 15 of its wholesale stores in five states. The company has tied up with Amplus Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd for the initiative.

Mumbai-based real estate firm Lodha Group is running a pilot project using solar energy at Palava, a 4,500-acre township which it is currently developing in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The rooftop solar panels installed in their residential buildings can generate 62,000 units of electricity, which have led to savings of around Rs.10 lakh since 2012.

“The pilot has been extremely successful, we plan to scale up to 4 lakh units (of electricity) by next year and are also evaluating setting up a solar farm,” said Shaishav Dharia (regional chief executive officer), Lodha Group.

Besides, residences, malls and other commercial establishments, office buildings are trying to harness solar energy and bring down the cost of their daily operation. For instance, 60% of the rural branches (around 150) of a non-banking financial company (NBFC) Fullerton India have started using solar power since the past three-four years.

“We are the only NBFC in India that uses solar energy to power our branches, eliminating the need for diesel-powered generator back-up. As of December 2015, the company has saved 116,000 litres of diesel,” said Rakesh Makkar, (executive vice-president and head of urban and rural business), Fullerton India.

The company plans to add solar energy systems at another 36 of its rural branches by the first half of 2016.

While industry experts said the current phenomenon is “just a tip of the iceberg”, it is expected to pick up as newer technologies enter the space and with the government encouraging to use solar energy by providing subsidies and tax incentives.

As per a report by Bridge to India, a consulting and knowledge services provider, the total installed capacity of rooftop solar power plants stands at around 525 MW as of 31st October, 2015. Of the total, the industrial segment uses about 210 MW, followed by commercial and residences with 172 MW and 143 MW, respectively.

“Adoption rate of rooftop solar power plant is somewhat modest at the moment. It is slightly on the slower side as people take time to spare cash or budget separately for this kind of venture. Nonetheless, it is growing pretty strong. Economics are in their favour mainly,” said Kameshwar Rao, leader (energy utilities and mining), PwC India, a research and consulting firm.

This article first appeared on Live Mint.

Read more of this interesting article on Palava’s website.

Let us know what you think of this article by leaving your comment below.

Become The Eyes And Ears Of Your Neighbourhood

May 29, 2016

A city is as good as its citizens. People constitute the heart of communities and neighbourhoods, and it would be unmindful to dismiss the effectiveness of community patrol which brings together several watchful eyes. When every citizen decides to take onus of his or her neighbourhood’s welfare, their small steps taken will reap big dividends down the road. Safety and security is often the least interesting subject to pursue and owing to its sensitive nature, people choose to avoid associating with it. Though, becoming a volunteer to upkeep the safety of your neighbourhood has much more than just keeping vigil.

It will make your family and you feel safer

When you work with your neighbours you learn more about them and make friends. You will together look out for homebound seniors or latchkey children and in return, learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses.


You’ll reduce crime

An empty house in a neighbourhood, where none of the neighbours know the owner, is a prime target for burglary. By knowing all your neighbours you will indirectly add to more watchdogs to ensure the safety of your home.


You’ll have a way to get help addressing neighbourhood problems

You can discuss ideas to enhance facilities or address community welfare issues and contribute with your suggestions.


You’ll learn new skills and gain experience using them

You’ll learn crime prevention skills, first aid implementation and enhance your ability to be the eyes and ears for your city. These skills will last a lifetime.


You can become the role model for your family

There’s a role for everyone where safety is concerned and you can encourage your family to join you. Young children can take part in safety programmes designed just for them. Youth can teach younger children how to stay safe and the elderly can keep an eye out for daytime problems.


Since its inception, Palava has been governed by Palava Citizens Management Association that ensures 24×7 safety and security for all citizens while regularly liaising with the local police and intelligence, emergency response teams and security experts. Since last year, PCMA has been supported by active citizen engagement teams of the recently formed Civic Volunteers Committee. Formed in association with the PCMA last December, this committee works closely towards creating a model of citizen stewardship in Palava and helps in regulating safety and security in the city. Globally, ‘neighbourhood’ or ‘town’ watch committees are much respected and have contributed to the betterment of society. Be it a Community Emergency Response Team, National Crime Prevention Council, National Association of Town Watch or others. Palava is proud to have its citizens follow this path in India and it encourages you too to take some time out to improve your future. You don’t have to take on a leadership role. Be it a few phone calls, a story for a newsletter or simply going about daily routines and observing the surroundings. Every effort helps and it makes a difference.

Silly Home Security Mistakes!

May 14, 2016
safety measures at Palava

It is time to leave on a holiday and ensure the house is secure before you leave. You are in a hurry or worried about the last minute checks before leaving the house. You are running late or juggling luggage with house keys. You are simply too excited about your holiday or preoccupied with unfinished work. The reasons may be plenty but they all result in silly mistakes that may turn grave for home safety if you get unlucky. Let’s make a note of a few essentials you need to fix right before you leave on a holiday!

Leaving house keys under the doormat.

This may be an old habit as you always made sure it was easy for the maid to access them while you were away at work. Break this habit when on holiday as the doormat or pot is the easiest place to be traced by a burglar.

Safety tip – Instead, hand them over to a trusted neighbour. Leaving the damaged door lock unattended. The lock has been failing to clasp a few times, it needs to be repeatedly shut tight or it’s unlocking by itself. Yet you have continued to prolong repair and now have run short of time so you just postpone it for a later date. This provides any burglar an effortless entry into your house. Safety tip – Ensure the locks for the safety door and main door are always in optimum conditions, and replaced, if necessary.

Safety measures at Palava


Using fake security equipment.

Security cameras are expensive and the apartment has a plenty of alert security guards, therefore, you choose to save money and install a fake camera. Remember, burglars do their homework well and are the first to spot the difference.

Safety tip – Invest in a good quality security camera which can be regularly monitored on your smartphone.

safety measures at Palava


Updating travel plans on social media.

‘Vietnam calling’ or ‘In the mountains in 15 days’ is your new status update for the week as the holiday is about to begin. Remember, social media is accessed by plenty from your social circuit and beyond. Your status message may encourage someone’s ulterior motives.

Safety tip – Do not post travel itineraries on Facebook and other social and public forums.

security measures at Palava


Keeping all lights switched off.

When you are travelling, as a practice, all lights are switched off, though, remember, for a burglar it is indicative of a chance to strike. Darkness means lack of any activity at home.

Safety tip – Invest in digitally timed lights that can be programmed to switch on and off at particular intervals.

security measures at Palava


Forgetting to stop your mail or newspapers.

While you are on a holiday, your doorstep is gathering piles of news. One look at your doorstep and a burglar can identify that the house has no occupants. This can encourage him to strike.

Safety tip – Stop your mail or newspapers before you leave on holiday.

security measures at Palava