Episode 253: Our Parliament and Our Democracy

A democracy is not just about voting, The rules of the game have to protect individuals, and institutions have to keep the government accountable. MR Madhavan joins Amit Varma in episode 253 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss his efforts at empowering MPs and MLAs with knowledge — and why we should not lose hope in our nation.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 132: Women at Work

There is a crisis in India today. There are not enough women taking up paying jobs — and their unpaid labour at home continues to be taken for granted. Journalist Namita Bhandare joins Amit Varma in episode 132 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the state of women in India today.

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Episode 131: Political Ideology in India

The usual spectrum of left and right does not apply to Indian politics. But does that mean that our politics is based on identity and patronage, and not ideology? Not quite, says political scientist Rahul Verma, as he joins Amit Varma in episode 131 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the two ideological cleavages that divide India.

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Episode 130: Demystifying GDP

In recent times, the GDP has become less of an economic measure and more of a political tool. Economist Rajeswari Sengupta joins Amit Varma in episode 130 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain what the GDP is, what it is good for, what it is not good for and what the fuss over this figure in India is all about. This episode has immeasurable value.

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Episode 129: Budget. Bollywood. Badmaashi

Like cricket and cinema, the annual budget brought out by the central government has become a national obsession. Vivek Kaul. the Shah Rukh Khan of Economics, joins Amit Varma, the Govinda of Podcasting, in episode 129 of The Seen and the Unseen to demystify the budget. Much fun is had. Blockbuster guaranteed.

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Episode 128: India = Migration

India is a nation on the move, and migration is in our DNA. Economic historian Chinmay Tumbe joins Amit Varma in episode 128 of The Seen and the Unseen to present the rich history of migrations into, out of and within India.

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Episode 127: Our Colorful Past

Indian history is wild fun. Historian Manu Pillai joins Amit Varma in episode 127 of The Seen and the Unseen to regale him with stories from his latest book. The subjects discussed include caste, gender, narrative manipulation, mad elephants and men blown out of cannons.

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Episode 126: Building Sports Ecosystems

Can India ever be a sporting nation? What will it take to get there? Joy Bhattacharjya, who started up Kolkata Knight Riders, brought the u-17 Football World Cup to India and is CEO of the Pro Volleyball League, sure thinks so. He joins Amit Varma in episode 126 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his passion and vision for Indian sport.

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Episode 125: The Importance of Finance

People often talk of the world of Finance as a giant casino, where sociopathic bankers gamble with the livelihoods of real people. Economist Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 125 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why this is a misconception, and why Finance is at the heart of our progress.

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Episode 123: India’s Supreme Court

As the recent sexual harassment case indicates, all is not well with the Supreme Court of India. Constitutional economist Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma in episode 123 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why the Supreme Court has gone wrong on both ends of the tradeoff between Independence and Accountability.

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Episode 122: The 2019 Elections

Elections in India are madly complex, and defy simple explanations. Sadanand Dhume joins Amit Varma in episode 122 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the Age of Modi, and what these elections mean for India, the BJP and the Congress party.

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Episode 121: Public Choice Theory

Governments consist of people, and people respond to incentives. For this reason, there is no better way to understand government than through the tools of economics. Episode 121 of The Seen and the Unseen is a rerun of an old episode of The Pragati Podcast, in which Amit Varma introduces Pavan Srinath to the mindblowing insights of Public Choice Theory.

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Episode 120: Resisting State Injustice

Conventional wisdom holds that there are three ways to respond to injustice by the state: we may leave, complain, or comply. Philosopher Jason Brennan joins Amit Varma in episode 120 of The Seen and the Unseen to argue that there is a fourth option: to resist.

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Episode 119: Modi’s Lost Opportunity

Despite being a Congress spokesperson, economist Salman Soz was hopeful in 2014 that the Modi government would be good for India. As the title of his new book indicates, that turned out to be quite The Great Disappointment. Soz joins Amit Varma in episode 119 of The Seen and the Unseen to elaborate on the many economic failures of the Modi government. He also tackles tough questions on the Congress party .

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Episode 118: Zombie Firms and Creative Destruction

The Indian economy has the seeds of a horror film, with zombies stalking the landscape. Air India is one. Jet could have been another had it been rescued. Economist Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 118 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the importance of creative destruction, and why failing firms should be allowed to die. Also discussed: price controls and market failure.

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Episode 117: What is Libertarianism?

“In a sense there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.” David Boaz. author of The Libertarian Mind, joins Amit Varma in episode 117 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain what libertarian thinking stands for, and to bust some of the misconceptions around it.

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Episode 116: India’s Lost Decade

In 2008, India was growing at 8.8% and was described as a miracle economy. It all went downhill in the next 10 years. Puja Mehra, author of The Lost Decade, joins Amit Varma in episode 116 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the random events, political imperatives and human dramas that collided to bring us to the brink of a crisis.

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Episode 115: The Intellectual Foundations of Hindutva

The ideology of Hindutva dominates our political and cultural landscape today. How did it begin, and what is it precisely? Aakar Patel, author of the forthcoming book Our Hindu Rashtra, joins Amit Varma in episode 115 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on three important Hindutva thinkers.

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Episode 114: Crime in Indian Politics

Why is crime ubiquitous in Indian politics? Why is your neta also a dada? Political scientist Milan Vaishnav joins Amit Varma in episode 114 of The Seen and the Unseen to speak about the incentives in play that have brought us to this place.

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Episode 113: The Geopolitics of the Bangladesh War

The formation of Bangladesh was neither inevitable nor a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. Historian Srinath Raghavan joins Amit Varma in episode 113 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the geopolitical forces that shaped those events of 1971.

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Episode 112: Early Indians

Who were the first Indians? Where did the Harappans go? Who were the Aryans? Whose descendants are we? Tony Joseph joins Amit Varma in episode 112 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how massive scientific advances in the last few years have given us answers to these questions.

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Episode 111: The India-Pakistan Conflict

What are the hidden dynamics of the India-Pakistan conflict? What are the possible ways of resolving it? Historian and foreign policy analyst Srinath Raghavan joins Amit Varma in episode 111 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the game theory and geopolitics of this messy situation.

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Episode 110: Reporting Venezuela

Venezuela is a country blessed by nature but cursed by politics. Journalist Alexandra Ulmer joins Amit Varma in episode 110 of The Seen and the Unseen to share her insights from her years as a reporter there.

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Episode 108: The Importance of Cities

India is rapidly urbanizing – and the Indian state seems to be in denial about it. Reuben Abraham and Pritika Hingorani join Amit Varma in episode 108 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss what India needs to do to prepare for its urban future.

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Episode 107: An Economics Ramble

Host Amit Varma is joined by Vivek Kaul and Kumar Anand in episode 107 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the economic landscape of the day. Subjects discussed include the interim budget, the minimum income guarantee, the jobs crisis and how good politics leads to bad economics.

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Episode 106: Stubborn Attachments

In his latest book, Stubborn Attachments, Tyler Cower lays out a moral vision for the future. He joins Amit Varma in episode 106 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why future lives matter as much as present ones, and why our priorities should be centered around sustainable economic growth constrained by negative rights.

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Episode 105: Understanding Gandhi. Part 2: Mahatma

In the second of a two-part series, historian Ramachandra Guha joins Amit Varma in episode 105 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about Mohandas Gandhi’s transformation into Mahatma Gandhi — and how that changed the world. Among the subjects discussed: caste, misogyny and Gandhi’s personal obsessions.

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Episode 104: Understanding Gandhi. Part 1: Mohandas

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most fascinating characters in history: complex, misunderstood, deeply impactful. Ramachandra Guha, author of two acclaimed biographies of the man, joins Amit Varma in episode 104 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the first 45 years of Gandhi’s life, before he returned to India to catalyse the Indian freedom struggle.

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Episode 103: The Emergency

The Emergency of 1975 was not an aberration, but was written into the DNA of the Indian state. Historian Gyan Prakash joins Amit Varma in episode 103 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on why the framers of the constitution gave such draconian powers to the state — and why we may not have become so free in 1947 after all.

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Episode 102: The Paradox of Narendra Modi

Shashi Tharoor, author of The Paradoxical Prime Minister, joins Amit Varma in episode 102 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the many faces of Narendra Modi, as well as the nature of politics, the idea of India and his own journey as a politician.

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Episode 101: The Progress of Humanity

We tend to take progress for granted, and are wired to focus on bad news instead of good. Steven Pinker joins Amit Varma in episode 101 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about why the world is getting better, and why Enlightenment values are essential for ensuring that the trend continues.

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Episode 100: The 100th Episode Ramble

The Seen and the Unseen reaches 100 episodes! Yea! Economist Shruti Rajagopalan, the most frequent guest on the show, joins host Amit Varma as they shoot the breeze about the 99 episodes before this, the horrors of 2018, and the further horrors of 2019.

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Episode 99: The Importance of Rules and Institutions

A democracy is not merely about voting. Those who are voted into power need to be kept in check, and Rules and Institutions are essential for this. Foreign policy analyst Ameya Naik joins Amit Varma in episode 99 of The Seen and the Unseen to elaborate — and to explain the danger that Donald Trump poses.

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Episode 98: The Deccan Before Shivaji

When people think of the Deccan, they think Shivaji vs Mughals. But the history of the Deccan is far richer than that — and far racier. It’s full of lust and laughter, murder and madness, sex and senselessness. Historian Manu S Pillai joins Amit Varma in episode 98 of The Seen and the Unseen to tell that fascinating story.

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Episode 97: The Evolution of Cricket

In his three-decade career covering cricket, Harsha Bhogle has had an inside view on the transformation of the game. He joins Amit Varma in episode 97 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about how cricket has changed – and why it gives him hope.

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Episode 96: The Evolution of Everything

The world evolves in a bottom-up way, despite the top-down beliefs of those who have blind faith in either God or Government. Matt Ridley joins Amit Varma in episode 96 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the evolution of the universe, life, culture, language, cities, the economy, our minds, our future and more.

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Episode 95: The Indianness of Indian Food

What does it mean when we say that something is ‘Indian’? Does origin matter? Food writer Vikram Doctor joins Amit Varma in episode 95 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about how most of what we think of as Indian food originated elsewhere — and why it doesn’t matter.

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Episode 94: Rajesh Jain and Dhan Vapasi

Rajesh Jain was one of the architects of Narendra Modi’s win in 2014 — and then got buyer’s remorse and turned against the BJP. Now, he has launched Dhan Vapasi, an insanely ambitious and innovative attempt at disrupting Indian politics. He joins Amit Varma in episode 94 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain where he’s coming from.

Note: The first half of the show is about Jain’s political journey before this: supporting Modi, changing his mind etc. The conversation about Dhan Vapasi starts at 1:03:25.

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Episode 93: America in South Asia

For over 200 years, America has been interested in South Asia across three separate axes: power, ideology and culture. Historian Srinath Raghavan joins Amit Varma in episode 93 of The Seen and the Unseen to provide a guided tour of this fascinating history.

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