HISTORY
PIDT traces its roots to the Rural Action Project of the National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM), established in the 1970’s to spread the impetus of National development to the primary agricultural sector. The Rural Action Project (RAP) encompassed 29 districts in eight northern states including Assam, Bihar (now Bihar and Jharkhand), Haryana, Madhya Pradesh (now also Chhattisgarh), Orissa, Rajasthan, Utter Pradesh, and West Bengal.

The rural social workers trained by the NIBM met extreme challenges in the rural communities, both in terms of barriers encountered with local power structures and bureaucracy, and in the minds of the oppressed people themselves. RAP Spearhead Teams sought to align themselves with the poorer sections of the rural communities in which they worked by living among them and serving their causes. As they did not observe caste taboos and associated on equal footing with the lowest members of society, their presence in the villages disturbed the social equilibrium and initially strong resentment from the higher castes who had vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Police and other local government officials in the villages, unfamiliar with the NIBM, also viewed the Spearhead Team members with suspicion, often investigating them as potential radical revolutionaries. Yet, such identification with the poor was crucial to gaining the people’s trust as their understanding of outsiders had been circumscribed by repeated exploitation at the hands of government officials and moneylenders alike.

Negotiating the tensions between disparate segments of society and harnessing the productive potential that arises in disrupting oppressive hierarchies in order to open the minds of the people to consider alternative ways of living emerged as major prerequisite tasks to any development work in these rural contexts.

Based on this experience and on concomitant social analysis of oppression, 45 rural activists from RAP undertook to research alternative forms to facilitate people’s true participation and development. The activist founders of PIDT studied and were influenced by the Indian freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Phule and Paolo Freire. The ideals of these great thinkers blended with the experiential learning of the rural activists who imbibed them, creating embodied values and methods of praxis.

  Man behind the movement

Prof. Subhachari Dasgupta,born in 1929, grew up in turbulent times, and participated in the freedom struggle, even as a young child in Kolkatta in some of the non violent rallies and once was even the last flagbearer when all others before him had been shot dead. His schooling was partially in Kolkatta and partially in Hazaribag. Growing up in an aristocratic family and being the youngest amongst 6 brothers , gave him a lot of time to play, while over 100 persons had meals in their household at any given time. Perhaps his adaptability came from these circumstances.

After school, with much opposition from his family he joined the Mitra College of Art at Kolkatta. He did not enjoy it there so he left and joined Kalabhavan at Viswabharati , Shanti-niketan under Ramkinkar Baig amongst others, where he imbibed the spirit of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, and a love for nature and music, that held stead for the rest of his life's work. He travelled by cargo ship to London , where he completed his post graduation. After post-graduation he joined the Bata Shoe Co. in London and worked with them in Paris as well as in Kolkata, where he developed a number of new advertising strategies under the tutelage of D.K.Sinha. One of his creations was the linking of seasons and festivals (Durgapuja) with product, - a strategy still used by Bata and mainstreamed by many advertisers.

He then, joined Small Industries Extn Training (now NISIET) at Hyderabad and headed both communications as well as international training. At NISIET , he spent a very extensively active period in developing training mannuals for management of small scale and tiny industries.
When in 1970 , the National Institute for Bank Management was formed and he was appointed as the first faculty. At NIBM, which was an RBI instituted institution, he became a full professor. He served as consultant to Banks Bhumiputra and Negara to develop agricultural and rural banking in Malaysia. He also served as govt. of India advisor to develop agricultural finance in Banks in Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka.

In 1976, he along with other senior staff of NIBM started the Rural Action Project to investigate why villagers were unable to avail of finance from banks even though Farmers Credit Societies had been instituted. This led to extensive innovative action research, which led to intensive social action at various locations across North India.

Dedicating himself to the development of the people in remote tribal villages , he travelled extensively through the states of Meghalaya, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Orrisa and Maharashtra. His approach was to develop the analytical understanding of people and give voice to the voiceless. His mission was to increase freedoms of ordinary people in low caste communities and tribes. He worked incessantly and trained hundreds of young trainers who are able to carry forth this message throughout the country.

He was selected by the Chief Justice of India as part of a three member Enquiry commission to evaluate compliance to labour laws for construction workers during Asiad Games preparation.

Having interacted avidly with Schumacher , Robert Chambers and others he was an ardent follower of Paulo Frierie and shaped his development thought and action on those lines.

He held honorary positions as member governing board of International Association of Community Development ( IACD), Belgium; ICON in Sweden, Centre for Development Alternatives (CEPAUR), Chile; previously board member International Association for Volunteer Effort( IAVE.)- he contributed significantly to developing understanding regarding volunteering world-wide. Under his guidance, the IAVE held it's world conference in India last November 2006 where 600 persons came together from 59 countries.