Episode 283: The Forgotten Greatness of PV Narasimha Rao

If leaders are to be judged by their actions, PV Narasimha Rao was our tallest leader. Vinay Sitapati joins Amit Varma in episode 283 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how Rao showed  conviction and political skill in going against the tides of the day to enable the 1991 reforms, which brought hundreds of millions of Indians out of poverty.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 42: Behavioral Economics

To celebrate Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize, behavioural econ geek Nidhi Gupta joins Amit Varma in episode 42 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss key concepts from the field — all of which explain many of the Unseen Effects of our actions, and the way we’re wired.

Episode 41: Money in Cricket

Cricket has been transformed in the last four decades, first because of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, and then recently by the IPL. Noted cricket writers Gideon Haigh and Prem Panicker join Amit Varma in episode 41 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the enormous impact of this commercialisation.

Episode 40.5: We’re on a break

The Seen and the Unseen takes a one-week break for Diwali. But we have one request for you: we want your feedback on the show. Click here to tell us what you feel about The Seen and the Unseen!

Episode 40: State of the Economy

Many of the things wrong with India’s economy today are Unseen Effects of Demonetisation and the botched design of GST. Vivek Kaul join joins Amit Varma in episode 40 of The Seen and the Unseen to take stock.

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Episode 39: Eating Out

Why don’t Indians eat out as much as people in other countries do? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma in episode 39 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain how we landed up in an equilibrium in which our restaurants prefer ‘tasty’ to ‘healthy’.

Episode 38: Import/Export

The Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 is an example of a policy that harms those it is meant to help. Sudhanshu Neema joins Amit Varma in episode 38 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why.

Episode 37: Obamacare

Obamacare is almost an article of faith for elite American liberals, but it has had devastating Unseen Effects. Economist Sudhanshu Neema, who joins host Amit Varma on episode 37 of The Seen and the Unseen, believes that it was responsible for Trump coming to power. Listen up!

Episode 36: SEZs (Special Economic Zones)

Special Economic Zones are usually set up with the best intentions: to attract businesses and create employment. But what are their Unseen Effects? Karthik Shashidhar joins host Amit Varma in episode 36 of The Seen and the Unseen.

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Episode 34: Uber Surge Pricing

Isn’t surge pricing exploitative? Shouldn’t it be banned? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma to speak about the Unseen Effects of price caps. He also describes how Uber turned an illiquid market into a liquid one.

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Episode 33: Football Transfers

How does the football transfer market work? Why do some players command insanely high transfer fees while others get nothing? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma to demystify this particular market.

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Episode 32: Non-Performing Assets (NPAs)

Indian public sector banks have a notorious problem of non-performing assets, or NPAs. Vivek Kaul and Kumar Anand join Amit Varma to discuss the causes of this problem, and what can be done about it.

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Episode 31: Urban Governance in India

Our cities are in a mess. They are not in such bad shape because of corrupt individuals or apathetic citizens, but because our structures of governance are all messed up. Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma to explain why.

Episode 30: Real Estate Prices

Why do real estate prices in India not fall when demand goes down and inventory stops moving? Vivek Kaul plays economic detective to help Amit Varma solve this mystery.

Episode 29: Drug Price Controls

The government of India often fixes the prices of medicine in India so that poor people can afford them. Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to discuss the Unseen Effects of this, and how they can be ameliorated.

Episode 28: GST Revisited

In Episode 3 of The Seen and the Unseen, we had discussed GST — the Goods and Services Tax. Now that it’s actually been implemented, Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma to discuss its Seen and Unseen Effects.

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?

Episode 7: MRP

For any shopper in India, there is no acronym as comforting as MRP: Maximum Retail Price. When you see that on any packaged good, you feel assured that you won’t be ripped off. But is it really that simple? Prithwiraj Mukherjee joins Amit Varma to discuss the seen and unseen effects of MRP.

Episode 6: Surgical Strikes

On September 18, 2016, a group of terrorists attacked an Indian army brigade headquarters near the town of Uri in J&K. Nineteen people died, and there was immense pressure on the Indian government to retaliate. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, eventually launched what he described as ‘surgical strikes’, meant to be a show of strength and resolve. Defence analyst Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma to discuss the Seen and Unseen effects of these surgical strikes.

Episode 5: This is All Because of Rupal Ben

A few years ago, a photo studio in Ahmedabad offered its customers free passport photographs. There was no catch, no small print. It was a free lunch. Amit Varma is joined by Mohit Satyanand, as they explore how this free lunch transformed financial regulation in India. They also discuss how bad incentives can lead to corruption becoming a cultural phenomenon.

Episode 4: Immigration

The history of humanity is the story of an Expanding Circle: one in which the world gradually gets more and more globalised, and the movement of goods and labour becomes more and more free. But recent years have seen the rise of populists who, among their many follies, are suspicious of immigration. America, a land built by immigrants, just elected a demagogue who prefers walls to bridges.

In Episode 4 of The Seen and the Unseen, Amit Varma discusses Immigration with Shikha Dalmia. Are the demagogues right about immigration being a bad thing? Do immigrants take jobs away from locals? Are they a strain on resources? Should we build yuge walls?

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