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The Real-Life 3 Idiots ‘Phunsukh Wangdu’ – Sonam Wangchuk



The innovator Sonam Wangchuk, has recently been awarded the Honorary D.Litt Degree

Sonam Wangchuk, famous for his innovations of SEMCOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) and the Ice Stupa has been awarded the Honorary D.Litt Degree by the by the Symbiosis International (Deemed University). With President Ram Nath Kovind as the chief guest on the occasion, Wangchuk was awarded in recognition of his works as an innovator, inventor, engineer, and educationist. After accepting the degree, the Ladakh-based engineer and the real-life ‘Phunsukh Wangdu‘ of the Aamir Khan-starrer film ‘3 idiots’, stated, “I did what humanity demands people to do”. He said that that he had not done anything out of the box… just what he was supposed to do.

Mr. Wangchuk has not only set up SEMCOL or the Ice Stupa but has also worked very hard to make the best use of solar energy and has created artificial glaciers in order to focus on the major issues of water scarcity. He certainly has put in his vigorous efforts and has made headway for everything with the feeling of humanity in his heart.

Early Years:

Sonam Wangchuk, the education reformist was born in 1966 in Uleytokpo in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir. In the very early years of Wangchuk, his education was not very progressive. Being not many schools in his village, he was taught all the basics in the native language by his mother, until the age of nine.

The Darkest period:

At the age of nine, he along with his family shifted to Srinagar and was enrolled in a school there. Certainly, his appearance was different from the rest of the students; it was quite difficult for him to adjust to the new environment… the different language being the major issue. He was rather taken erroneously to be dumb for the lack of communication and responsiveness. As he was Unable to adapt to the environment of the place and the way he was treated, he ran away alone to Delhi. He pleaded his entire situation to the school principal at Vishesh Kendriya Vidyala. Wangchuk, still believes it to be the darkest part of his life.

Career Surges:

After some time, in 1987, he came back to Srinagar although and did his B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Srinagar. He had to finance his own education because of the disagreement of his father over the choice of engineering stream. In 2011, he went to Grenoble (France) for his higher studies in Earthen Architecture at Craterre SCHOOL of Architecture for two years.

After completing his graduation, his career took a huge turn as he began to explore, learn, and grow with his great intelligence, innovative ideas and, hard work.

  • In 1988, Wangchuk started SEMCOL, along with his brother and his companions.
  • He worked for 12 years (from 1993-2005) as the editor, for Ladags Melong- the only print magazine of Ladakh.
  • In 2001, he was appointed as an Educational Advisor, in the Hill Council Government.
  • In 2002, he founded LVN (Ladakh Voluntary Network) and worked there as the Secretary in its Executive committee up till 2005.
  • He was entrusted with the formulation of the policy on Education and Tourism in 2004, after being appointed to the Drafting Committee of the Ladakh Hill Council Government’s Vision Document Ladakh 2025.
  • By 2005, he was appointed as a member of the National Governing Council for Elementary Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.
  • He also worked for Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS) as an Education Advisor for three years (2007-2010) to support the Ministry of Education (Nepal) for education reforms.
  • By the end of 2013, Wangchuk invented and built a prototype of the Ice Stupa.
  • In 2014, for framing the J&K State Education Policy and Vision Document, he was appointed to the Expert Panel.
  • Since 2015, the real-life ‘Phunsukh Wangdu’; has been working on establishing Himalayan Institute of Alternatives. The movie justified his character as, in real life also, he is concerned about how maximum Universities; especially those in the mountains have become irrelevant to the realities of life.
  • The initiation of a project named, farmstays Ladakh, was done in 2016; which was very unique and thoughtful in its own as it provides the tourists to stay with the local families of Ladakh, run by mothers and middle-aged women. The official inaugurated was done by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche on 18 June 2016.

Achievements and Innovations:

The list of Wangchuk’s achievements is endless but the ones which have deepened their roots in the past years have proved out to be of great inspiration to all of us.

  • SEMCOL and its Campus: 

The Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh or SEMCOL is a non-traditional school which brought in a huge educational reform in Ladakh. For those circumstances, he usually says, “For me, my house was on fire and young brothers and sisters were in distress. So when your house is on fire, there is nothing special in throwing water on it, it is your duty, and if you don’t do it, that is surprising.”

The infrastructure of SEMCOL is such that even in -30 Celsius winters, his solar-powered school, built with the rammed earth, keeps the students warm.

SEMCOL has won the International Terra Award for best building in July 2016 at the 12th World Congress on Earthen Architecture in Lyon, France. However, the campus was built by using the very simple, low-cost traditional techniques on the principles of passive solar architecture.

  • Ice Stupa:

Back in 2014, Wangchuk started a project named the Ice Stupa with the aim of finding a solid solution to the water crisis being faced by the farmers in Ladakh, especially in the planting months of April and May. They successfully built a two-story prototype of an ice stupa, which could possibly store roughly 150,000 liters of winter stream water. In 2016, Wangchuk started applying the Ice Stupa technique for disaster mitigation at high altitude glacier lakes. This although gained much attention and in October 2016, Wangchuk and his team went to the Swiss Alps and started building the first Ice Stupa of Europe, together with the Swiss partners.

The Popularity Quotient:

Sonam Wangchuk is the person who is truly responsible and has worked very hard for the growth and upliftment of various aspect of society… especially education, for the land of high passes – Ladakh and its people. Apart from his work and assistance in politics; there were several other reasons for him to gain attention and respect worldwide. One of the major reasons for his popularity was in 2009. He came into accentuation when the movie ‘3 Idiots’ was released. The movie was totally inspired by Wangchuk’s life story. His character was played by Aamir Khan as Phunsukh Wangdu or Rancchoddas Shyamaldas Chanchad (Rancho). The character and the movie gained so much appreciation that Wangchuk has been referred to as ‘The real-life Phunsukh Wangdu’. However, he always states that he is not Phunsukh Wangdu.

Wangchuk has received and has been honored with various Awards and tiles, is yet another reason for him to be popular.

    • Recently in 2018, he has been given the Ramon Magsaysay Award and
    • Back in 2017, he was awarded the Indians for Collective Action (ICA) Honor Award, San Francisco. He has also received the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2017; the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, 2017; and the State Award for outstanding environmentalist by J&K Govt., 2017.
  • The other major awards being, the Rolex Award for Enterprise, 2016, and The International Terra Award for best earth building, 2016.
  • The UNESCO Chair Earthen Architecture, by CRATerre France, 2014; being one of his worldwide achievements.
  • Other awards including, The Green Teacher Award by Sanctuary Asia, 2004,
  • the Ashoka Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship, by Ashoka USA, 2002,
  • Man of the Year by The Week, 2001, and

The Governor’s Medal for educational reform in Jammu & Kashmir in 1996.

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Abhay Ashtekar – An Inspiration For Every Indian



Once again an Indian made a mark in the history with his outstanding achievement. Abhay Ashtekar, an Indian born American professor received the prestigious Einstein prize.

  • It was a proud moment for every Indian when Abhay Ashtekar, an Indian born and bought up in a small town named Kolhapur in Maharashtra state, received the prestigious Einstein prize.
  • The prize was established by the American Physical Society (APS) in 1999.
  • APS rules and eligibility criteria states, the award is given for outstanding achievement, in theory, experiment or observation in the area of gravitational physics.
  • The award prize consists of 10,000$ and he received the award on 23rd October 2018.
  • He plans to spend the prize money by contributing to scientific societies, according to his reply given in an email interview with a local newspaper. He also mentioned that he has used honoraria and prizes in the past to contribute to scientific societies, e.g. to the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation to support travel expenses of the `Young Scientist Gold Medal’ winners, to the triennial international conferences of the Society.


  • No matter what the hurdles, you have the capability to make a difference when you follow your passion with all your heart and hard work. Abhay Ashtekar proved this with his achievement. Kolhapur, the city he was born in, is a very small city that is dominated by a very distinct style of Marathi language.
  • Having a rich cultural background, Abhay Ashtekar was aware of only Marathi literature till the age of 11. Hindi and English literature were introduced later in his life.
  • Physics piqued his interest and he moved forward to follow the same.
  • He enrolled in the graduate program for gravitation, at the University of Texas at Austin and then completed his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
  • In graduate school, he chose to work in general relativity, cosmology and quantum physics because he thought those areas covered the most fundamental questions about space, time and the nature of the physical universe were discussed.
  • Starting from a small city with many challenges on the path to receiving the prestigious Einstein prize, the journey of Abhay Ashtekar has been remarkable and an inspiration for every Indian.
  • Currently, Abhay Ashtekar is the Eberly professor of physics and director of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at the Pennsylvania State University.
  • He also authored and co-authored over 270 scientific paper along with writing or co-editing nine scientific books.
  • He received this prestigious award only after four years of starting his scientific engagement with gravitational science.
  • The APS cited, the prize was received by Ashtekar”For numerous and seminal contributions to general relativity, including the theory of black holes, canonical quantum gravity, and quantum cosmology.


When Ashtekar was asked about his emotions regarding the award, he answered by saying it will be recognized as a “Lifetime achievement”.

When asked about the status of physicists in India for producing world-class research, his response was filled with a lot of pride and affection.

  • He disclosed in the email interview with a local newspaper about his role model.   
  • From Bob Geroch, He got clarity of thoughts and the capability to develop his own, fresh perspectives.
  • From Roger Penrose, he learned the art of `dreaming’ –the mysterious process by which one gropes in the dark and grasps the key structures even before they have come into light.
  • From Chandrasekhar, he learned the meaning of  `inner, moral fiber’ in a scientist.
  • His life work and achievements have been listed on the website stated in Pennstate Department of Physics website is

Abhay Ashtekar’s research and discoveries have given a different perspective to not just a particular country but the whole generation and future generation. Indians have excelled in many areas across the world and he just made another achievement for India as a country. Abhay Ashtekar is looked upon as role model for all our millennial aspiring to make a difference in the world.

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Why IIT’s Are Failing To Woo Foreign Students? 



If we evaluate engineering colleges in our country, the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) are bound to be on top of the list. The Indian Institute of Technology, country’s premier Institute has fallen flat in its attempt to do a more global outlook after it failed to attract quality students from abroad. Having got the tag of the institution of eminence from the Centre, the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, has decided to double its intake of foreignstudents in the coming year. It is also looking at increasing the number of foreign students to 10% of its strength in five years.

Several IITs have been signing MoUs and establishing academic and research collaborations with foreign-based universities. But is it wooing more foreign student’s enrollment? certainly not. Fret not! Here’s the answer-


Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) is one of the most famous Indian higher education brands outside the country. They are autonomous public institutions under the Ministry of Human Resource Development and are branded as the best Institutions in the country for engineering education and research in terms of quality and standards. While IITs have a global reputation for quality, they are nowhere on the international map. To increase our ranking around the world, drastic steps are being taken by the government.

Any candidate yearning to pursue a course at an IIT have to undertake either the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), for undergraduate students, or the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) for masters and Ph.D. applicants. To attract foreign students, IITs holds entrance tests in eight countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Singapore, and Dubai, (all SAARC countries) to select students for their undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Both these tests are considered as the toughest admission tests in the world. These admission processes for the IIT requires extensive preparation and is not conducive to attract foreign students. The Indian should be given the opportunity to compete globally with foreign students in the global market to show their worth and their talent to the world. Many foreign meritorious students are missing the opportunity due to this criterion, which is absolutely wrong from their point of view. Not only it is an injustice to these students but is also a loss for IITs and NITs; because they are missing global cream of students because of this criterion.

For more information regarding the current admission process, you can click on

The Institute needs to penetrate better among schools abroad to draw more candidates. They need to allocate funds on publicity.



IITs have collaborated with 200+ foreign-based Universities but that does not guarantee higher foreign enrolment. The funding from the ministry is not enough to provide competitive fellowship for foreign scholars. You must provide a higher amount of fellowship to woo foreign scholars. The funds provided to international Ph.D. candidates will be similar to those given to domestic students – about 28,000 rupees ($407) per month and free accommodation. The institution is also reportedly forming a delegation to attract faculty from eastern Europe and Russia.



Several IITs is aiming to sign MOU to bring in foreign students and teachers to India via dual and joint degrees and exchange programs. But to implement this they will need a surplus amount of funding. They are also devoid of separate funding to send students or teachers abroad. In a recent report of the Reserve Bank of India, it has been seen that though the spending on overseas education by Indians have increased by many folds, the investment by foreign students in India has declined substantially.


The current fee structure of the foreign students is fixed Rs. 6,00,000 per annum, is 3 times that of the Indian students which is not competitive enough. In a recent meeting, the IIT Council, headed by the HRD (Human Resource Development) Minister, has come to the decision that the IITs will now be allowed to fix the fees for foreign students. It is not viable do demand such an exorbitant fee when your main plan is to attract quality students from middle and low- income countries like Africa and Asia.

However, in a recent meeting, The Indian Institute of Technologies in a move to improve international rankings and lure in students from abroad have proposed to cut the fees for foreign students. To revamp the education system and to improve the Global ranking of the Indian Institutes, the Government of India is taking steps to attract more foreign students in the next few years. Hence, the current stand to reduce the fees was the need of the hour. Beside tuition fees, the lack of adequate institutional support had always been a deterrent to attract foreign students to study in India.

Let us ponder at some important advantages of the IITs welcoming international students

  1. The induction of foreign students is being seen as a necessary move to improve the global ranking of institutions, as the Institute of eminence status is aimed at helping Indian institutions break into the global league. The various IITs should try to increase the number of foreign students and they should set a target to reach in the coming years. The QS ranking of higher education institutions across the world ranks them on five parameters — foreign faculty, foreign students, student-faculty ratio, research, and perception.

According to Department of Higher Education figures, a total of 46,144 students from 166 countries studied at Indian HEIs during 2017-18, with 63.4% hailing from just 10 countries and Nepal constituting 24.9% of the total.(

The move will also draw quality foreign professors in these institutes, which will be helpful in boosting the number of international faculties. The proportion of international students and faculties plays a crucial parameter in the International Ranking of Engineering Institutes.

  1. Internal Placements will increase as International companies will show a keen interest in these colleges.
  2. With the arrival of foreign nationals, the overall quality of research will improve. The government is quite keen on having many foreign students at IITs as it will instantly boost the country’s international academic rankings.

The government is quite keen on having many foreign students at IITs as it will instantly boost the country’s international academic rankings. So, in order to blossom as an Institute of Global Importance, IIT need to rethink their strategy and take necessary steps to woo foreign students.

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Three Things to Make a Great Teacher




Professor (Dr.) Trilok Kumar Jain

(an SGVU  initiative to promote Innovations and Entrepreneurship)
Principal, SGVU Academic Staff College (GV-ASC)
Professor and Dean, International School of Business Management (ISBM) 
Suresh Gyan Vihar University Jaipur, India


Teaching is the best profession in the world because a teacher transforms an ordinary person into an outstanding citizen. The role of the teacher is very difficult to understand and also very challenging. Only someone who loves this profession would be able to do justice with the rising expectations. Being a teacher, I wish to share three fundamental principles, which can help in our transformation.


Don’t Teach – Let them Learn

The overemphasis on teaching kills the opportunities of the transformation of students. Students wish to learn and grow and a teacher is a mere facilitator. It is the fundamental role of the teacher to kindle a desire to learn, understand the hurdles faced by the students and create pathways for learning. This learning may be the result of mutual learning. The teacher may not be teaching, but creating an environment for learning. The mere presence of teacher may kindle a desire to learn and students may support each other in the process of learning.


Convert Classroom into Learning Centers

A teacher converts a classroom into a learning center. Mere a building doesn’t convert it into a learning center. The bricks and mortar present do not create an opportunity to learn. Students may end up feeling frustrated in a suffocating chamber. However, a teacher can break this situation and convert this room into a learning center, where students are willing to learn something. Their willingness and their efforts to learn to create the required ambiance, which is further developed into an open forum for curiosity, inquisition, inquiry, discussions and information sharing.


Keeping the Slow Learners in Perspective

A teacher has to address a variety of students. A classroom may contain 60 learners, but everyone is not learning at the same pace. Some of these are fast learners and they are able to grab the attention of the teacher also. They are able to increase the speed of discussions in the classroom and create a stimulus for fast-paced learning. The teacher has to understand that there are also some slow learners. The art of teaching is to blend teaching at such a pace that there are opportunities for learning for both fast learners and slow learners. It is easy to teach to the fast learners. However, a great teacher is someone who is able to reduce the pace to the level of slow learners and enable them to come up to other students also.


The art of teaching of the teacher should create an opportunity for learning for everyone present in the classroom. When the entire class is involved in the learning process, there is a true environment for learning. A new teacher generally tries to be very fast in teaching due to over-enthusiasm.

However, with the passage of time, the teacher realizes that true joy of teaching comes when the student at the bottom of the class emerges as the winner at the end. The transformation of an ordinary student into an extraordinary learner is the best reward for the teacher.


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