PIDT grew out of the Rural Action Project (RAP) of the National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM) and was established in 1980. Forty social Activists, researchers and professors involved in field study and grassroots action in 19 districts in 8 states of North India, set about questioning local power structures and searching for alternative lifestylesled by Prof. Subhachari Dasgupta. PIDT now has about 450 activists working in five states of North India.
The major activity of PIDT staff is catalytic in nature. PIDT initiates collectives in the villages and communities which can then work towards their own betterment.