I decided some years ago that I would only accept awards from academic institutions or those associated with my professional work, and not accept state awards.
Romila Thapar, in a letter to the President, while declining the honor conferred upon her -- Padma Bhushan. Apparently she had refused to accept the Padma Bhushan way back in 1992 as well. Now I'm not against accepting state awards. Same time, I do not give much importance to those awards. (While most of the awardees usually deserve it, some get it based only on their contacts. Moreover a lot of deserving people never make it.) But there's something that I like about these actions, something that I won't be able to explain well.
Pervez Hoodbhoy, well-known Pakistani nuclear scientist about whom I had a post a few days ago, had refused to accept the prestigious Pakistani award, the Sitara-e-Imtiaz. His reason:
I do not consider the process by which awards are given as carrying legitimacy. If you give someone an award in a field of science, only a panel of scientists should decide whether that person deserves it or not. A bureaucrat should not have the right to decide that a person - A or B or C - is worthy of some award. The present procedure serves only to create a culture of sycophancy that rewards flatterers.