Indian engineer, innovator, education reformist and founding director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), Sonam Wangchuk will be honoured with the ‘Lokmanya Tilak National Award 2020’for his contribution in encouraging modern and creative trends among the young generation.
The Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth director Dr. Deepak Tilak believes that Sonam Wangchuk has been promoting the ideologies of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak through his national movements. Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had also promoted the ideologies like Swarajya, Swadeshi, Rashtra Shiksha (education) and Bahishkar (boycott of English people) during his freedom movements.
Born on September 1, 1996, the 53-year-old legend is known for changing the face of Ladakh by designing the SECMOL campus in a region where the temperature reaches minus 20-30 degree Celsius. The SECMOL campus founded in 1988 with the help of a group of students who Wangchuk call the ‘Victims of an alien education system foisted in Ladakh’ runs entirely on solar energy.
The 2018 Ramon Magsaysay award winner Sonam Wangchuk came into limelight after a Bollywood film 3 Idiots in 2009 where he was associated with the character Phunsukh Wangdu played by the lead actor Amir Khan. However, Wangchuk denied it thoroughly saying 3 Idiot was not his biopic.
Who is Sonam Wangchuk?
Wangchuk was born in Leh district of Ladakh and didn’t see a school until the age of nine as there was no school in his village. He started his schooling in Srinagar where his look that different from other students invited to an unpleasant behavior from his classmates. He was addressed in a language he didn’t understand and his lack of responsiveness was assumed as his stupidity. According to Wangchuk, this was the darkest period of his life. It was so difficult to bear the treatment that he ran away in 1977 and reached Delhi to plead his case in front of the school principal at Vishesh Kendriya Vidyala.
After schooling, Wangchuk completed his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the National Institute of Technology Srinagar in 1987. His father didn’t want him to take Mechanical as a branch of study and the differences over the choice of the stream made him finance his own education.
Sonam Wangchuk actively participated in the launch of Operation New Hope in 1994. This was a collaboration of government village communities and the civil society to bring reforms in the government school system.
Achievements of Sonam Wangchuk
SECMOL Campus: Sonam Wangchuk designed several passive mud buildings in mountain regions like Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim and installed solar power in order to save energy. SECMOL has been awarded the International Terra Award for the best building in July 2016 at the 12th World Congress on Earthen Architecture in Lyon, France. The building has a big solar-heated teaching hall, several rooms for the students, and classrooms that keep the students warm even in minus 30 Celsius in winter.
Ice Stupa: Wangchuk started applying the Ice Stupa technique for disaster mitigation at high altitude Glacier Lake in 2016. Later Sikkim government invited him to apply the siphon technique for another dangerous lake in the state. The same year he and his team visited Swiss Alps and started building the first Ice Stupa of Europe along with the Swiss partners.
Sonam Wangchuk has also been raising his voice to boycott Chinese products by using ‘wallet power’. His appeal gained ground with the help of media coverage and a number of celebrities supported his cause.