India’s most intractable political issue

India's most intractable political issue
5. General

India’s most intractable political issue

Welcome to the twentieth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

🐦 3 Tweets of the week

This graph surprised me – I knew China was leading, but not by so much! Also, Europe being significantly ahead of the US (the land where it all began…!)

The greatest crime successive Indian governments (of all stripes) have done is to underinvest in foundational education.

Another stunning thread – that pic gives such amazing perspective to the statue.

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. ‘Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things’ by Gurvinder Bhogal

In this striking article, computer scientist turned modern-day philosopher Gurvinder Bhogal eloquently states why intelligent people are more likely to hold erroneous beliefs.

… human intelligence evolved less as a tool for pursuing objective truth than as a tool for pursuing personal well-being, tribal belonging, social status, and sex, and this often required the adoption of what I call “Fashionably Irrational Beliefs” (FIBs), which the brain has come to excel at.​

Since we’re a social species, it is intelligent for us to convince ourselves of irrational beliefs if holding those beliefs increases our status and well-being. Dan Kahan calls this behavior “identity-protective cognition” (IPC).​

By engaging in IPC, people bind their intelligence to the service of evolutionary impulses, leveraging their logic and learning not to correct delusions but to justify them. Or as the novelist Saul Bellow put it, “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

In a different post where he shares his origin story, I loved how he frames the problem with this pithy line:

In short, what the jihadists believed was not based on what they saw as much as what they saw was based on what they believed.

b. Using the Ladder of Abstraction to Elevate Science Stories by Jyoti Madhusoodanan

A storyteller needs to maintain a balance between abstraction and concreteness. This article describes the useful concept of the ‘Ladder of Abstraction’.

The ladder of abstraction reflects how humans experience and process information, and ultimately make sense of the world. At its lowest rungs are specific examples of an object or idea, such as a Great Dane named Doc Hudson or a corgi named Macaroni. Moving a rung higher, our brains group these individual animals together as dogs. Further abstractions of dogs can evoke more intangible concepts, informing our ideas of pets, animals, family, and love. The climb on this ladder is “an indispensable convenience” that helps us process new information and grasp its deeper meaning, Hayakawa wrote.

📖 1 long-form listen of the week

a. Shruti Rajagopalan Dives Into Delimitation on The Seen and the Unseen with Amit Varma

This eye-opening conversation dives into the massively controversial topic of delimitation.

Despite our constitutional aspiration, India does not follow the principle of ‘one-person, one-vote’ – some states send more MPs to Parliament relative to their population. Of course those states also contribute significantly higher sums to the union fund pool.

This is likely to be most divisive issue that will impact our country’s politics over the next few decades.

Shruti, an economist at the Mercatus Centre at George Mason University, has researched the issue thoroughly and presents a radical suggestion to solve it. The conversation debunked many myths I had about the topic (for instance – that the Southern states were better at population control!).

A great accompaniment to the episode is this detailed article by Shruti. You can read it after listening to the conversation.

Some article extracts – here’s Shruti describing the core issue:

The Indian population has grown, and its internal demographics have changed significantly in the last half-century, which has led to malapportionment, which is the asymmetry between the shares of electoral constituencies relative to the shares of the population for given geographical units (usually states).

​Malapportionment is quite severe in India. At the extremes: In Bihar, one Member of Parliament (MP) represents approximately 3.1 million citizens. An Uttar Pradesh MP represents approximately 2.96 million citizens. A Tamil Nadu MP represents approximately 1.97 million citizens. And a Kerala MP represents approximately 1.75 million citizens. Consequently, India is no longer living up to its fundamental constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.”

Why did we land in this mess:

Like many terrible changes in the Indian Republic, this one can also be traced back to the Forty-Second Amendment to the Indian Constitution, which in 1976, froze the number and boundary of constituencies in the Lok Sabha (Article 81) and state legislatures (Article 170) according to the population numbers from the 1971 census. The freeze was fixed for a period of 25 years, until the 2001 census.​

The ostensible reason was uneven population growth. The politicians from southern states of India claimed that they more strictly and successfully followed the Union government’s population control mandate compared to the northern states. As a consequence, they alleged, that they were electorally and politically penalized for complying with the Union government mandate.​

However, India’s original constitution was designed to address this problem. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were supposed to adjust seat share across states based on proportional representation, direct and indirect, respectively. So uneven population growth was not the real reason because the seat share in both Houses of Parliament would adjust based on population and any malapportionment would be eliminated after every census.

​The actual reason was that India was a bicameral federal union, but it wasn’t fiscally federal. The southern states, with wealthier residents, contributed more to the collective Indian revenue pool. In the seventies, under Indira Gandhi’s centrally planned economy, there was virtually no fiscal federalism. The Union government redistributed resources based on need, and the poorer states, with higher fertility rates and therefore higher population and population growth, received a much larger share of the revenue than they generated within the state. The fundamental issue was not about population or people; it was always about money!

That’s all from this week’s edition

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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