Episode 247: The Business of Winning Elections

Our political parties suck at governance but excel at narratives, as that’s what wins them elections. Shivam Shankar Singh joins Amit Varma in episode 247 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe his experiences at the heart of different political machines.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 27: Television Price Controls

Indian television is appalling, and the reasons for that go beyond culture. Renowned journalist Ashok Malik joins Amit Varma in episode 27 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how government regulation has played its part.

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Episode 26: The Right to Property

The Right to Property is the underpinning of all our rights — and yet, the Indian constitution does not consider it a Fundamental Right, though it once did. Constitutional expert Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma to discuss why this right is important, and the consequences of its being weakened in India.

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Episode 25: Farm Loan Waivers

In episode 25 of The Seen and the Unseen, Kumar Anand and Vivek Kaul join Amit Varma to talk about the part farm-loan waivers play in keeping farmers in PPP: Perpetually Planned Poverty.

Episode 24: Prostitution

For all practical purposes, prostitution is banned in India, and looked down upon by society. Manasa Venkataraman joins Amit Varma to discuss the legal, moral and economic aspects of criminalising sex work.

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Episode 23: Public Sector Banks

In 1969, Indira Gandhi carried out a wave of bank nationalisations with some excellent stated intentions. But what were the Unseen Effects? Mumbai-based economist Kumar Anand joins Amit Varma to discuss the structural flaws in the very concept of public sector banks.

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Episode 22: China’s Influence in South Asia

China has become an influential force in India’s neighbourhood recently. Is this something India should be worried about? Foreign policy expert Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma to allay these fears.

Episode 21: Slums

Slums in India have been both demonized and deified. Some say they are an eyesore to the city; others say they are hotbeds of entrepreneurship. Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to take a deeper look at the role slums play in our society.

Episode 20: The Coming Jobs Crisis

Many of the terrible policies followed by our government over the decades have one common unseen effect: a lack of jobs. India is headed for a jobs crisis, and Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma to discuss why it has come about and what we can do to stop the slide.

Episode 18: Restaurant Regulations

 If you want to see the many ways in which the government resembles a hafta-extorting mafia, look no further than restaurant regulations. They come about with a noble stated intent, but end up harming both consumers and restaurants. Madhu Menon joins Amit Varma to talk about the intended consequences of restaurant regulations.

Episode 17: Centrally Sponsored Government Schemes

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna. All these are centrally sponsored government schemes with good intentions at their heart. But are good intentions enough? Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma to discuss the Unseen Effects of Centrally Sponsored Government Schemes.

Episode 16: Artificial Intelligence

Like all technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make humanity better off in the long run. But in the short run, it will cause much disruption, including mammoth job losses in India’s services industry. Futurist Ramez Naam and policy wonk Pavan Srinath join Amit Varma to talk about the Unseen effects of AI.

Episode 15: Kannada Dubbing Ban

For decades, there has been a stricture in Karnataka that non-Kannada films cannot be dubbed into Kannada. The idea behind this was to protect the local film industry — but were the unintended consequences just the opposite? Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to discuss the Unseen effects of this ban on Kannada dubbing.

Episode 14: Rent Control

Rent control is a classic example of a regulation meant to help the poor that ends up hurting everyone. Alex Tabarrok joins Amit Varma to discuss how real estate in Mumbai would be so much cheaper if not for such government regulation.

Episode 13: The Anti-Defection Law

It is a sad day for any democracy when MPs and MLAs sell themselves to the highest bidder. Horse-trading is monstrous. It was to prevent exactly this that the Anti-Defection Law was passed in 1985. But did it end up doing more harm than good to democracy? Barun Mitra joins Amit Varma to discuss the unseen effects of this famous legislation. 

Episode 12: Futures Markets in Agriculture

For decades now, India has either banned or heavily regulated futures markets in agriculture. The conventional wisdom is that futures markets can turn farmers into gamblers. But what if the Unseen Effect of such regulation is exactly the opposite? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma to chat about the unintended consequences of such well-intentioned but misguided regulation.

Episode 11: FSI (Floor Space Index)

Mumbai is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and one of the reasons is that there is too little land and too much sky. Alex Tabarrok joins Amit Varma to discuss Mumbai’s insanely low Floor Space Index (FSI), a key reason why real estate here is at such a premium.

Episode 10: Digital India

Big Brother is watching you, and you have no protection. There has been much hype about how ‘Digital India’ will transform our lives, but there are unseen elements to it that should make you worry. Devangshu Datta joins Amit Varma to discuss why it is so alarming that there are no laws in India to protect privacy and defend against data theft.

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Episode 9: The Profit Motive in Education

Jawaharlal Nehru once said that profit is a ‘dirty word’. He wasn’t alone in his distrust of the profit motive, which is effectively banned in education in India. Amit Varma chats with education reformer Parth Shah on why this thinking is misguided, and might be responsible for the pathetic state of education in India.

Episode 8: The Medical Council of India

Healthcare in India is in a dismal state, and so is the state of medical education. Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to discuss the role of the Medical Council of India in this mess. Is it a responsible industry watchdog helping keep standards high — or is it a part of the problem?