A project in the name of ‘Phulbani Jilla Unnayan Prakalp’ was started in the year 1985 for the development of tribal community of Phulbani District in Orissa, by few concerned souls. Under this, 490 schools and medical centres were working. Extending the work, they invited some prominent citizens of Kolkata for evaluation and advice. The members from Kolkatta visited Phulbani as Vanayatri. Moved by the poverty and living conditions of the tribals, the team decided to raise resources for supporting the service projects for tribals. That was the genesis of ‘Friends of Tribals Society.’ FTS was inaugurated on January 15, 1989 on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. The First Executive Committee had Sri. Ramdas Agarwal as President, Sri. Bimal Lath as General Secretary and Sri. Mangi Lal Jain as Treasurer.
Since its inception FTS has stressed on the importance of education to bring about any change or development. It is education that empowers people, develops a sense of confidence and fraternity amongst them and gives them the courage to resist exploitation. To accomplish the primary aim of eradicating illiteracy, the Friends of Tribals Society started a unique project - 'Ekal Vidyalaya Yojna' in 1989 in the rural and tribal areas of Gumla district of Jharkhand. FTS patronizes 20,571 villages, which is a whooping 41% contribution by them and about 5 lakh tribal children are getting the benefits by the project as on July 2013.
The most important factor for the success of FTS is its system of Nagar working with regular weekly and monthly meetings, Vichar Gosthi and various other programs involving large number of eminent citizens. Chapters and State Voluntary Organizations were formed in different parts of the country. As on date FTS has 30 chapters across all states of India.
There are five zones, North, South, East, West and North East under five Chairmen with Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, Coordinators and Treasurers.