March 2012 | The Top Post !

Celosia argentea (कुर्डू)

Silver cockscomb, a Flowering herb, is often neglected considering it to be grass / weed. It belongs to amaranth family and can prove striking garden flower as well. These are in pinkish - silvery white color, spike like structure and are vertically oriented. Flowers are like crest or plum and flowers in plenty. Its a much attractive plant when plantation is considered. It doesn't require shade, rather grown best in sunlight. Plant grows better when the dried flowers are removed. These dry flowers can be used to grow more plants. Mostly seen after monsoon season. Flower attracts plenty of butterflies for nectoring, specially the skippers. Skippers have long tentacles and therefore can penetrate well within flowers to grasp the food. Stem of the flower is long, thus can be useful for flower arrangement to be made with long necked flower-pot. Plant can grow upto 3-4 ft.

Quick Facts:
Name: Silver Cockscomb, Marathi : कुर्डू
Botanical name: Celosia argentea / spicata
Family: Amaranth
Best seen on IITB campus: Old medical garden

By Paresh Kale

Flowering Tree: Spathodea campanulata (African tulip tree)

Commonly known as African tulip tree, this spectacular evergreen plant is introduced to India. Its a large tree which can grow up to 80 ft. It blooms in the spring. The glorious flowers are orange in color and peak blooming is seen in spring months. 

Quick Facts:
Common Name: African Tulip Tree, Fountain tree
Botanical Name: Spathodea campanulata
Family:  Jacaranda
Best seen on the IITB campus: Behind staff hostel on lake side road, besides mechanical engg. dept. in new medical garden, on the turn towards SBI ATM in Tansa

India’s biggest problem: Underutilization of resources

This was the top award winning essay, written by me in 2003 for a competition which was part of Brainwaves 2003. Brainwaves is an annual national level festival of talent, organized by Finolex Academy of Management and Technology, Ratnagiri.

India’s biggest problem: 
Underutilization of resource

One striking difference between the developed and least developed countries is that while many things may divide us like political differences, economic competitiveness, ethnic divisiveness etc. in the particular area we have shared common concerns that is we all need resource development. Resources are both means and end of the economic development. When we talked about means of development in economics we often meant investment capital. And yet resource capital, which made critical difference, was measured neither qualitatively nor quantitatively, nor received the kind of attention that it deserved. If we need to elaborate this India’s biggest problem it can be as follows:

  • Unviewed importance of local governance (Gram Sabha):
Deliverance comes not from electoral forms but informed franchise, not from the mystic authority of franchise but from the enlightened participation of the populance in the public affairs” – Justice Krishna Ayyar.

The belief of the government is that active participation of the people through the institution of Gram Sabha would ensure transparency and accountability of the system and there fore the “Gram Sabha” should be strengthened. The studies have attributed ineffective functioning of Gram Sabha:

1. Lack of awareness among rural people about the functioning of sabha.
2. Dominances of sarpanches and absence of proper understanding of village Panchayats and gram sabha.
3. Lack of commitment on the part of the officials to educate the members of the Gram Sabha as to their functions and responsibilities.
4. Gram sabha should have full powers for determining the priorities for various programmes in the village and approval of budget.

The 73rd constitution Amendment Act, 1993 for the first time created a statutory imperative for the establishment of legally empowered Gram Sabha or village assemblies in India. Almost all the state governments have provided for the Gram Sabha but its functions and authorities have not been spelt out in detail. Consequently, these institutions continue to function ineffectively. The absence of women folk in the meetings of Gram Sabha has become a common feature. The participation of people belonging to weaker sections is also minimal. The entire exercise thus becomes formal and incapable of yielding the expected results. Thus it is needed to

1. Recognize Gram Sabha as the heart and soul of Panchayati Raj system
2. Developed as an institution where common people can get an opportunity to participate plan and implement their basic needs.
3. Encourage to exercise its authority for taking up any development program at village level.
4. Allowed to evoke its own procedures within the legal limits for conducting its business.
5. Motivated to absorb the philosophy of grass root democracy.

  • Underpowered rural women
Our rural women have a very great part to play in the progress of our country, as the mental and physical contact of women with life is much more lasting and comprehensive than that of men. For nothing was it said that ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. In the apron string of the woman is hidden the revolutionary energy which can establish paradise on the earth” Dr. Rajendra Prasad

The term empowerment is often used to describe the process where by the powerless peoples gain a greater share of control of resources and decision making. The term ‘employment’ is rooted in the theories of Paulo Freire who put forward the notion of ‘conscientisation’ as a process by which the poor could challenge the structures of power and take the control of their lives. By expanding this analysis and giving gender an integral place; feminists put forward the concept of women’s empowerment. It is the process is one where women find time and space of their own, being to reexamine their lives critically and collectively, enable women to look at there old problems in new ways, analyze their strength and situation, recognize their strength, alter their self image, access to new knowledge etc.

Indian scenario says that access of information is the key for economic, social and political empowerment of women. Reforms should poses new forms of learning, education, health services, livelihood options, governance mechanisms and commerce which would lead to the ultimate goal. This Un-empowerment becomes part of India’s biggest problem as although the rural woman population is 30% of the total, this hidden energy is not utilized yet. There were fewer efforts to empower them through reservations in elections, access to loans, participation in local level banking, creation of credit societies.

  • Ignorance towards agricultural reforms
Agriculture is no doubt a leading sector which provides major part of employment needed. But no government yet has made a significant reform after the green revolution. “Every country can revolt once against bad government but every farmer should make revolt against the less crop production every year.” When drastically increasing population is considered the only way to provide them food is a new revolution not only for Wheat but also in case of rice, cotton, cereals etc. 

If we study latest general budget for the year 2003-04, it proves to be meaningless for the productive agriculture. Even the finance minister said that “Farming is most important but we are using fewer resources in the farming”, lessen the subsidies over fertilizers, levied Cess over cash crops. The most interesting thing is that out of 4,38,795 crores Rs. only 50 crores are reserved for the irrigative fertilizers, crop diversity, biotechnology, precise farming, in all. Even after fifty years of independence insurance policies for agriculture sector is not strong so that a poor farmer can rely on. No proper schemes are provided to lend the money to farmers and its recovery, development of wastelands, processing and storage etc. Not about this budget, but all the budgets after India has decided for strengthening its privatization and Globalization policies budgets are going away from agricultural reforms. It looks such that all theses budgets asks common farmer should turn towards business of construction.

  • Improper technology transfer
There is need to organize the rural artisans and provide them improved technology based on the existing tools and skills. The development and usage can vary. The best technology is that the poor should be able to handle it. For better and efficient utilization of technologies at various levels of industrialization, an ideal organizational structure which can take care of linkages between production, marketing, processing, materials etc. The focus of appropriate technology should concentrate on:

1. R & D which has to play a vital role in providing right kind of technology.
2. It should deal with upgrading of skills and productivity and optimal utilization.
3. Technology should not be only confined to mere expansion of traditional technology but also cover large scale industries.
4. Should be profitable.
5. Search of suitable technologies with major objectives of increasing employment, output and reducing capital requirement and saving foreign exchange.

In the present rural industrial structure there seems to be deficiency of all the above things discussed. The transfer is following ‘Trickling theory’, i.e. appropriate technology is not being transferred to the farmers although it is invented in the various Laboratories. This is also because of the less number of agricultural related institutes actually interested in field studies and imparting education in agriculture. For example in Maharashtra there are 47 engineering colleges, 25 medical and uncountable art and commerce colleges, but only four agricultural colleges. This imbalance has lead to improper and inappropriate technology transfer.
  • Inability to grab the advantage of IT sector
Government has declared year 2002-03 as IT year. It decides to take every advantage of IT sector to empower the e-governance, e-commerce, e-medicine basic communication network. Certainly taking the initiative, states like Karnataka, Andhra, and Tamil Nadu had started projects for such reforms. But this digital fever is not throughout the country. North-Eastern states, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar etc. are far behind where IT is badly required. Our country has got many IT experts, next generation is favoring digital reforms, will to fill up digital divide is also present. But schemes are still on the paper. If these reforms are taking place then the local governance can be made strong removing barriers of literacy, jugglery due to red band, and frauds.
  • Lack of "energetic" initiatives
In rural areas electricity supply is erratic in terms of availability and poor in terms of voltage regulation. Still rural people are dependent on the fuel wood and biomass available locally. This destroys man hour to meet energy needs, poses serious health risks due to smoke. Installed capacity in the country increased from 1300 MW at the time of independence to about 102,000 MW as December. The studies by Central electricity Authority (CEA), December 2002, show that natural resources are underutilized. The following table shows potential and installations of renewable energy technologies:

Wind Power
Small Hydro power
Biomass power
Solar PV
MW/sq. Km.
Solar power heating
Mn. Sq. m
Biogas plants
Improved cook stoves

If these resources will be used at optimum basis, stress of increasing load over power system will get reduced; Power to the local user will be provide locally, Industry will get uninterrupted and required power. This requires energetic initiative by power ministry.

  • Conclusion
These measures are suggestive. India can make its functioning effective by using its extensive human resources, agricultural richness, and vast natural resources. To enhance utilization functioning and central role Gram Sabha in local planning, services of NGO, empowerment of women, technology transfer, research organizations and use of IT for faster access to knowledge. Then only the legislative imperative becomes a reality, otherwise the ideas of real democracy and powerful nation remains on paper. Ultimately,

It is perfectly said that
that Government is best which governs least
It is equally true that
that government is best which provides most
- Walter Lippmann

Flowering Trees: Gilricidia sepium (गिरी पुष्प / उन्दरी )

Its a deciduous tree and introduced from Mexico. As it belongs to Pea family, is used for nitrogen fixation and improving quality of soil. It can attain a height up-to 10 m. Tree shades it leaves during February / March. Flowers are bright, pinkish in color and are present in bunch. Ants are often seen feeding on them Its also food plant for many butterflies, specially from the "Blue" category. Its host plant for Pea Blue, common cerulean. During ore-monsoon season, hundreds are Pea-blues are seen near this trees. I am not sure if this tree is also called as उन्दरी in Marathi, as bark is used as rat poison. Fruits are elongated sticks, approx 10 cm in length.

Qucik Facts: 
Common Name: Mexican Lilac, Mother of Cocoa, Quickstick
Botanical Name: Gilricidia sepium
Family: Pea / Fabaceae
Marathi Name: गिरी पुष्प / उन्दरी
Location on IITB Campus: All along fence common to SGNP of medical garden, hill side





Flowering Trees: Helicteres isora ( मुरुड शेंग )

Flower of Indian Screw Tree

A significant plant in terms of ecological and medical use. Its a small tree which grows upto 2 meters. It flowers in September-October. This post-monsoon period is also a high season for butterflies. Butterflies like emigrant , tailed Jay, Wanderer etc. are often seen nectoring on these flowers. Small birds like flower peckers and sun bird favors this plant for nectoring. Red flowers turn pale white when old. Twisted shape of the fruit impart its name "Indian screw plant" to it. 

Quick Facts:
Common Name: Indian Screw Tree
Botanical Name: Helicteres isora
Family: Cacao
Marathi Name: मुरुड शेंग
Location on IITB Campus: Most common tree on Hill side ( in the valley), medical garden

Flower pecker on Murud Sheng

Basic Raw Editing

                Shooting in RAW is always preferred by most of the photographers. RAW file is like digital negative, thus making post processing flexible and powerful and compared to editing JPEG. I use Nikon D7000 and Adobe Photoshop CS5. Other models and version can make concerned changes in the post and read. In this post I will try to explain some basic steps in RAW editing using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Before starting, here are few notes:
1. Check if you have installed proper camera raw plugin. Look in the associated equipment list for your camera model.
2. A particular version of Photoshop supports camera raw, and is mentioned in the details of the camera raw version u r downloading.

Tool pallet helps for cropping, rotating and zooming the image.  Tool pallet 2 is more useful. Histogram and EXIF information is displayed on the top. Just below it, there are plenty of tabs which are used for adjustments. First tab, Basic, is widely useful. White balance can be adjusted using some pre-sets and fine tuning can be done with temperature and tint slide bars. I use it mainly for correcting object colors due to light reflection from other objects. Exposure adjustments helps specially when the flash has not fired, I have explained it in detail here. Default values of recovery, fill light, blacks and brightness slide bars are acceptable in most situations. Contrast may be sometime improved. I don't seem it add much of the noise. Clarity adjustment may be individual taste. For macro (close-up photos) sometimes I decrease the value. Rarely I increase it. For sharpening I use "high pass filter technique". Increasing saturation increase vividness. I shoot the photos at standard picture settings. So sometimes hue and saturation are necessary. Other tabs, sometime later. Basic tab suffice most needs. :-)

Flowering Trees: Bixa orellana (शेंदरी)

A small evergreen tree, originating from Myanmar / Burma). Flowers in October to December. Flowers with five petals and are off-white / pinkish in color, approx. 6 cm in diameter. Flower occurs in a bunch at the end of the branch. This tree is cultivated variety in India, although its native from Burma. The seeds are crushed to obtain yello-orange pigments and are used as dye for food, cosmetic and soap industries. Coloration property of the seeds might be reason it is also called "lipstick Tree". It is reported host plant of Tricolor Pied Flat.

Quick Facts:
Common Name: Lipstick Tree / Annatto
Botanical Name: Bixa orellana
Family: Annatto
Marathi Name: शेंदरी
Location on IITB campus: Medical garden, many of them planted left side of entrance.


Flowering Trees: Saraca asoca ( सीता अशोक )

Flowers of Sita Ashok
Leaves of Sita Ashok
semi tall, sprawling green tree looks like a content and satisfied human being to me. Its the same tree mentioned in Ramayana in referenace to "Ashok Van" (Garden of Ashoka trees), where Sita was captivated by Lankan King Ravan. Its the same place where Hanuman meets her and assures her about her release. Tree grows upto 10 meters and found in evergreen forests. Tree is green through out the year and flowers in pre- monsoon months. This characteristics may be the reason tree becoming a must plantation in garden. Still this tree is listed as "vulnerable to extinction" in the IUCN list. Flowers, yellow-orange colored, bloom in clusters. Personally, I haven't seen nectoring species on this flowers. Although flowers are fragrant, never seen a lady wearing those either. It is reported host plant of Common Cerulean, a common butterfly. 

Quick Facts: 
Common Name: Sita Ashok / Sorrowless tree
Botanical Name: Saraca asoca
Family: Gulmohar
Marathi Name: सीता अशोक
Location on IITB campus: on right side of H-5 entrance

Lime Blue (Chilades laius)

Fresh Lime Blue 

Lime Blue female egg laying on Lime
Lime Blue (Chilades laius) belongs to Lycaenidae family. It is small butterfly, grayish in colorWe were able to observe its life-cycle. As its name suggest its larval host plants includes Lime plants. We observed its larva on small lime tree in Medical garden. Larva was easy to detect even though it is well camouflaged. Ants constantly follow larva, so in order to find Lime Blue's larva just follow the trail of ants. On the same plant we were able to find many empty pupa. This plant had many curled leaves. Lime blue caterpillar took advantage of this to make the pupa. Pupa were well concealed inside curled leaves of plant. It seemed that ants were attaining pupa also. We saw two pupa made very near to each other on same curled leaf. Lime Blue is seemed to be common in immediate post mansoon months. Again they were mainly encountered around Hill side. 

Lime Blue pupa in secluded leaf of lime, held on palm 
Key to ID this butterfly is the "L"shaped dots on its hind wings. Sex are dissimilar, female has black outlines on UP, which are absent in male. Here is a video Describing association of ants with lime blue caterpillar on lime tree.

Quick Facts:
Common Name: Lime Blue
Scientific Name: Chilades laius
Wingspan: approx 25-20 mm
Status: Locally Common.

Lime Blue
Pulpit rock
Pulpit rock
Pulpit rock
Early stage Pupa
Pulpit rock
Early Stage Pupa
Pulpit rock
Pupa just before eclosion
Pulpit rock
Pupa Just before eclosion
Pulpit rock
A different specimen

Flowering Trees: Red Silk Cotton Tree (शाल्मली / शेवर)

Flower of Red cotton silk tree

A large dark red/ magenta colored flower of "silk cotton tree" attracts every nature wanderer during summer trails. There exists a very similar species, white flowers is the sole difference. Flower with five petals blooms during spring months (January to March), while tree losses all its leaves as many other tree do. Many birds like drongo, jungle babbler, common crow etc. feed on the flowers. 

This native tree can grow up-to 30 m. Thorns on the stem and branches is its characteristic ID. Tree is largely famous as it bears its relation with a famous festival of Holi. In Konkan region, the decorated tree, decorated with Mango leaves and flowers, is worshiped.  Tree is then burnt in the night and Holi is celebrated. The availability of this tree is larger and confidently its leafless during the same month when Holi is celebrated. The fruits appear in the month of April may and has fiber inside. Often seen them flying with the hot summer winds. Fibers are used in the pillows by villagers. Wood is light and makes it use in building structures used in water. 

Quick Facts:
Common Name: Red Silk Cotton Tree (Sanskrit: शाल्मली / Marathi: शेवर)
Botanical Name: Bombax ceiba
Family: Baobab
Flowers: Large, red/magenta colored with 5 petals
Location on campus: All over academic area and hill side, a common tree.

Jungle Babbler feeding on Red Cotton Silk Tree

Wandering destination: Tungareshwar WLS

Cool water streams at Tungar WLS

Plum Judy is a commoner butterfly
Stunning destination for nature lovers. IT has something in every season. water falls and flowers in monsoon, butterflies in pre and post monsoon season, charming birds in winter season. Racket tailed drango, Around 100+ species of butterflies can be seen around. Winter season is best for birding. Asian Paradise flycatcher, Verditor are few attractive species of birds found here in appropriate season.

To reach Tungar, take bus from Main gate to Andheri railway station. Frequent locals from Andheri drops u at Vasai road. Take share auto to "Tungar Phata" and then start walking towards WLS. Entrance is at about kilometer inside from the main road. No ticket is charged presently and no permission required for nature walk. One can either follow the water streams or the road. Another part of Tungar WLS is Chinchoti waterfall. Alight  at Naygaon station, catch share auto to reach Chicnhoti fata.

Tungareshwar is famous for the Shiva Temple, which is around 3-4 kilometers from Tungar phata. Fairly good road for vehicles to go till the temple. It is jot advisable to take bikes, specially in and after monsoon season.

Cornellion is common in Monsoon

Morning at Tungar WLS

Video of Water stream, Chinchoti during December

Shiva Temple

Tungar WLS and Chichoti waterfall

Swapnil and Abhay sharing lite moments at Chichoti water fall

Wandering Destination : Matheran

Road to heaven?...Matheran
A famous tourist weekend destination and hill station. Pollution free zone due to some strict rules regarding vehicles and environment. Basically its a plateau at a height of about 1800 mt. Temperature in summer doesn't go above 30 deg.cel. Pretty good destination for photography post-monsoon. Stunning waterfalls,  exquisite landscapes, mesmerizing fog, curvy roads, breath taking valleys, grand panoramas, drizzles, in short everything for memorable weekend. Birds in and after winter is good attraction. We went there for butterflies three times in different season with different approaches. All the three trips proved miserable. Lifers for us was peacock royal sighting. Otherwise the common ones.

Flowering Trees - Cannon Ball Tree ( नागचाफा / कैलासपती)

Flower of Canon Ball Tree

Bunch of flowers and fruit string

Second in the flowering Tree series, is the post on "canon ball tree". It is listed as rare tree and flower in India [1]. It grows up-to 80 ft high and flowers in around December. Flower has six petals. Reddish inside and yellowish outside. Tremendously aromatic and smell can be felt strongly in near-by area. Inside structure is horizontal "U" shape. This inner structure is the reason it is offered to Lord Shiva and hence name in Marathi, as some thinks.

This Brazilian native takes its English name due to characteristic canon-ball like shape of its fruits. Fruits have rusty colored hard shell and are heavy. Number of fruits are connected in string and tree bears them directly to the trunk. The Cannonball Tree possesses antibiotic, anti-fungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities [2] and hence used for medical purpose.

Quick Facts:
Common Name: Canon Ball Tree
Botanical Name: Couroupita guianensis
Family: Barringtonia
Marathi Name: कैलासपती / नागचाफा/ नागलिंग
Location on campus: Only one in parking lot near staff club.

Flower close-up

Flowering trees - Cassia fistula (बहावा)

grape bunches-like flowers
IIT Bombay hots many flowering trees, which are unusual to find in Mumbai city. This is the first article in the series of "flowering trees". The series will be covering details about some of impressive trees present on the campus. 

Tree for today is Cassia fistula, commonly known by Amaltaas / Golden shower tree or Indian Laburnum [1]. In Marathi it is named as 'Bahava' (बहावा). In Ayurvedic medicine, golden shower tree is known as aragvadha, meaning "disease killer" [2]. Its a tropical ornamental tree, may reach up-to 50 feet height. It is host plant LHP for Common emigrant and Mottled emigrant butterfly species. 

Golden shower tree is obvious name due to bright and cheerful display by thousands of fragrant small flower. Pendant like (grape bunches-like) bouquet of golden colored yellow flowers are eye catching. These flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies [1]. Flowering season for the tree is in the months of March to May. Sometimes the tree is seen without a single leaf when flowering. The golden shower tree is the national flower Thailand; its yellow flowers symbolize Thai Royalty [2]. Its also state flower of Kerala. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this tree. 

Quick Facts:
Botanical Name: Cassia Fistula
Family:  Gulmohar
Flowering season: Late spring
Location on campus: Out side DRDO and QIP quarters.

Small Bahava Tree


Wandering destination: Around Mumbai

Greater Flamingo at Shivadi

IIT Bombay campus hosts innumerable varieties of birds, flowers, trees and butterflies. However, it has natural and ecological limitations. Every living species around Mumbai cant be seen in the campus. Some of the species are jungle dwellers and prefers thick, unattended forest. For example some butterflies species like Baronet, Tinsel, Western centaur Oakblue are seen in the jungles of SGNP and Tungareshwar WLS but IITB Campus. To explore more wonders about nature, apart from campus, there are some immediate destinations near Mumbai sub-urban. Here is consolidated information about one-day return spots.

Lungs of Mumbai, SGNP
Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP): Campus shares some of its boundaries with SGNP. SGNP, a  protected are of about 104 sq. km., spreads from Borivali to Thane.  An estimated 800 types of flowering plants; 284 kinds of birds; 5,000 species of insects; 36 types of mammals; 62 reptiles and 150 species of butterfly can be found. some distinguished features of the park are nature trails, Karvy flowers blooming after every 7/8 years, Kanheri caves. Ticket for individual is 20 Rs and park can be accessed from 6 AM to 6 PM. From IIT, BEST or NMMT buses drops you at the very entrance of the park. Private vehicles are allowed inside the park with some fees. For trekking and nature trails, prior permission is required.

Jungles in SGNP

Shiwadi bird watching spots
Shivadi: Famous for Flamingo's. Many other water birds (gulls, waders, snipers, herons,etc) can be seen in the mangrove forest. Best time of the day would be morning to visit. The are plenty of spots to seat calmly and watch bird activities. Take a train from Kanjur to Shiwadi, with one change over at Dadar. Start walking towards sea coast and ask for Jetty. Jetty is the best spot among many. Siwari fort could be an attraction for some, Colgate gate is another point to watch birds closely.  

Yeoor Hills: This is entry to SGNP from Thane. Buses from IIT Main gate to Mulund and then catching bus towards yeoor takes about 45 minutes to reach the destination under normal circumstances.

Tata power plant at backdrop, Shivadi

Map of Nagla Block
Nagla: Another extension of SGNP. Its far from the disturbances by the tourists. For butterfly lovers, there can be few surprises post monsoon season. Some exotic species of butterflies like Silver streak Blue, Chocolate Albatross, Orange Awlet, Acacia Blue are often sited. To reach Nagla, take a bus from Main gate to Mulund and then from Mulund to Hotel Fountain. Walk about a kilometer towards Ahmedabad on the highway and there u are. On right side there are some houses and thats the way in to the Nagla block.

Mahim Nature Park: Situated in the midst of city and spread over a large area on the banks of Mithi. Very well maintained and can be good starting point to watch nature closely and comprehensively. It hosts every natural element : birds, butterflies, flowers.Entry fee is 10 rs. Permission required to take photos. A bus from Gandhinagar bus stop drops very near to MNP.

By Paresh Kale