The redressel of the problems of backward communities began to receive the attention of the respective governments years before independence. Prior to the formation of the present Kerala State the territories namely Travancore, Cochin and Malabar had their own schemes and administrative setup for this purpose.
In Travancore the work relating to the amelioration of depressed classes was started in 1923. This work was entrusted with the Registrar of Co-operative Societies and a post of Protector of Depressed Classes was created in 1932. In 1937 this officer was placed under the control and supervision of the Special University Officer, who after the passing the Travancore University Regulations, became the Vice Chancellor of the new University. In 1941, the department was taken under the direct control of the government and an officer viz. The Protector of Backward Communities was put in charge of the department. The main duties of this department were, establishment of colonies, provision of wells, approach roads, common buildings, burial grounds, affording educational facilities and provision of employment to educated members. There were 7 field officers, 2 lady welfare officers and one welfare officer to assist the Protector in the 4 field.
In Cochin State, the Protector of the Depressed Classes with special staff was sanctioned in 1926 and as a temporary measure the DPI was posted as ex-Office Protector. In 1930 the department was started with a full time protector. The post of Labour Inspector were also created to assist the Protector. Their duties were same as of in Travancore. When the two states were integrated to form the Travancore Cochin State in 1949, the department of the whole state was placed under the control of the Protector of Backward Communities with Headquarters at Trivandrum. The designation was changed as Commissioner for the Advancement of Backward Communities in the year 1950.
In Madras State of which Malabar a post of the Commissioner of Labour was in charge of the Depressed classes. In 1934 the powers were delegated to the District Collector and the Commissioner worked as the co-ordinating officer.
In Malabar their duties were providing house sites, water supply, sanitary amenities, assignment of land, education and grants to private agencies working for the welfare of the depressed classes. In 1950, a post of Director of Harijan Welfare was created and the co-ordination of activities was entrusted with him.
The State of Kerala came in to existence in 1956 and Sri. K.C.Kunjan was posted as the first Director of the Harijan Welfare Department of Kerala in 1956.
The activities took up momentum steadily from the commencement of five year plans. Ample provisions had been made in the second five year plan for the welfare of the Backward Communities and the department was re-organized.
In 1958 these were District Welfare Officers in every revenue district and Posts of Taluk Welfare Officers were also created in all revenue Taluks. Post of District Publicity Officers in each District and Harijan sevaks in Taluks were also started and Post Matric and Pre-Matric hostels were established Lump-sum grant and monthly stipend were sanctioned for all post matric courses. Welfare and Tribal Schools, were started Model Welfare Training Centers and ITCs are started.
By the end of the 2nd five year plan the Harijan Welfare Department become a full fledged one having all round activities such as providing educational facilities, providing houses, activities under Co-operation, health and hygiene, training in crafts and traditional occupations etc.