It was reported some time back that at the 98th Indian Science Congress at Chennai the prime minister would give the Jawaharlal Nehru Award to Ratan Tata for his contribution to society by getting the Tata Motors to develop the world's cheapest car, Nano. But he did not receive the award nor his name was there in the published list of awardees. Perhaps his name was dropped from the list at the last minute because of Tata's fall from grace after a tape of his telephonic conversation with the Tata group's lobbyist Niira Radia, in which he seemed to be conspiring with her to have A. Raja reinstalled as the telecom minister in the UPA 2.0 government in May 2009, was recently leaked to the press. If this actually was the case, the government's decision, howsoever late in the day it might have been, was unexceptional. A person tainted with an ugly controversy could not be the recipient of this prestigious award.
So far, so good, but how about the person giving the Jawaharlal Nehru Award, was the prime minister Manmohan Singh fit to give it? After all, it was on his watch that Raja defrauded the exchequer of an estimated Rs.1.76 lac crore or US$39 billion. Through his letter of the 3rd January 2008 to Raja, Singh had accepted Raja's explanation of his bizarre actions. As if this was not enough, he also defended him publicly. Singh was forced to let him go only after the Supreme Court expressed surprise that Raja had still been continuing as a Union minister and this was in November 2010, more than three years after gross irregularities committed by Raja first came to light.
The government, however, has a serious problem on its hands - if the prime minister Manmohan Singh, because of his less than exemplary conduct, now lacks stature required for giving the Jawaharlal Nehru Award, who should be asked to do the honour. The chairperson of the the ruling United Progressive Aliance, Sonia Gandhi, or the president Pratibha Patil could hardly provide an acceptable alternative.