Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees

Samvada is registered as a public charitable trust.
Our Board of Trustees have legal and governance roles.

Founder Trustees

  • Anita Ratnam (author of the Trust)
  • Dr. Vishnu Kamat (chemistry professor & environmental activist)
  • Dr. Arun Kotenkar (educationist)
  • Diviya Kapur (advocate)
  • Dr V. S. Sreedhara (Professor of English and a human rights activist)

Current Board of Trustees

Anita Ratnam

After graduating from the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Anita Ratnam was among other pioneers in the 1980s who had the determination and tenacity to start organisations to address issues confronting Indian society. She founded and steered Samvada over the last 22 years and initiated work with young people way before, it became the ‘in thing’.

From writing academic papers to columns for newspapers, travelling to Pakistan with a group of students from India to conducting discussions with young girls on the politics of marriage in Bangalore college, to writing short stories and research reports alongside innovative proposals and reports Anita has worn multiple hats – that of a scholar, writer, trainer, activist and mentor. Anita brings to Samvada, her creativity, warmth and incisiveness.

As Executive Director of Samvada, she has, over the years brought together an interesting and diverse team, constantly reinvented the organisation to keep it relevant, nimble and responsive to the changing needs of young people in Indian society.

Benson Issac

Benson came to Samvada as a student in 1994  when he was studying sociology at St. Josephs College of Arts and Science. He trained in urban and rural community development from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and has been working in the development sector for over 12 years now. During this period, he has been associated with child rights issues, anti-communalism initiatives, has worked for Greenpeace as a climate change campaigner and also worked as faculty of Social Work at St. Joseph’s College.

Through his involvement with Samvada, he has done extensive work in sensitising and mobilising youth around social change, trained youth in alternative livelihoods and contributed to developing the body of knowledge around youth studies. Exploring the politics of knowledge and traditional livelihoods, especially handicrafts has also been a significant area of his engagement.

B. N. Jagadeesha


Byatha N Jagadeesha is a different king of lawyer, someone who uses law to help poor under-trials languishing in jails, to fight for secularism and to advocate for social justice. Jagadeesh was a B.A student when he first came in touch with Samvada in 1997-98.

His exposure to Nagarahole and then to Narmada valley in the year 1999-2000 was a turning point as he decided to work full-time for the Narmada Bachao Andolan for two and a half years.

He, then, came back to finish his LLB. After working with the Alternative Law Forum for Seven years, he decided to branch out on his own. Jagadeesh has always been supportive as well as critical about Samvada and brings a unique perspective to most of the challenges that Samvada faces

Dominic D'Souza

Dominic D’Souza used to be a teacher of Social Work long ago and decided to  throw that up and work with tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh.  Along with his wife Nafisa, he moved to Eastern Andhra, set up ‘Laya’ and began working with tribal communities  who were losing their lands  to non- tribals. 

 In 1989, Anita and Dominic together conceptualised and promoted the SMILE outreach network which later grew into National Youth Foundation (NYF), a coalition of 23 organisations working with youth indifferent parts of India.

Dominic brings to the Samvada governance process  his long standing association with  young people  as a teacher and mentor and his leadership of organisations like  IGSSS,  Laya  and  NYF and ASPBAE ( Asia South Pacific Association for  Basic and Adult Education). He is sharp, funny, blunt, and compassionate and can talk with passion about a range of topics from mysticism to climate change!

Diviya Kapur

Diviya Kapur first got in touch with Samvada when she was a 2nd year student of National Law School over 20 years ago. The exposures and discussions at Samvada during her student years led  her to legal practice  focussing  on women’s  rights. Somewhere along the way wanderlust caught up with Diviya and she travelled around, even doing a stint as a tour guide.

She finally found her true vocation when she set up Literati. This is a unique book shop in North Goa where writers, artists, children, readers, activists gather around piles of books to discuss ideas, words and goings on in Goa.

Sunil Abraham

The founder of Mahiti in 1998, a company committed to creating high impact technology and communications solutions, that played a pivotal role in introducing NGOs to the world of websites. Sunil was elected an Ashoka fellow in 1999 to explore the democratic potential of the Internet’ and was also granted a Sarai FLOSS fellowship in 2003.

From 2004-2008, Sunil had managed the International Open Source Nettwork and coordinated ENRAP; an electronic network of International Fund for Agricultural Development projects in the Asia-Pacific.

He is currently involved in research and advocacy  around issues of privacy and cyber snooping.