According to a book by PWD The Indian labourers were in Singapore as early as 1825. They were convicts in India but were brought here by the British to work in the Public Works Department (PWD) as menial workers. They built our roads, bridges, jetties, canals and sea walls. They also erected public buildings such as St Andrew's Cathedral and helped put up the Horseburgh Lighthouse. The most dangerous job was clearing the jungle in the interior to build roads. While doing so they faced the danger of attack by wild animals such as tigers, wild boars, snakes, dogs and others.
Furthermore, they made their own bricks, lime and cement from coral and quarry stones from Pulau Ubin. They fell trees for woodworks and prepared all types of ironworks. The convicts establishment was broken up in 1872. Many stayed in Singapore and continued to work with the PWD as skilled artisans.
In the 50s to 70s I remembered seeing them doing roadworks, digging trenches to construct roadside drains and also laying water pipes and laying electrical cables in the hot sun. They helped in the building and development of Singapore for more than 150 years. Singapore does not have a monument to remember them. A legacy that has been lost in history.
Photo credit to PWD - Roadworks at Beach Road in 1910
Photo credit to PWD - roadworks