Meet Ramalingam, the Tamil Nadu worker who won a case in Singapore for negligence in overcrowded lorry

Tamil Nadu’s Ramalingam Murugan has achieved a rare victory in the wealthy nation Singapore. 37-year-old Murugan, a migrant worker in Singapore has won a lawsuit in Singapore for negligence in an overcrowded lorry case.

According to a report by CNN, in 2021, Murugan fell off the back of an overcrowded lorry, leading to a fracture on his leg. Murugan’s accident occurred on January 3, 2021.

Because of the incident, he could not work. Murugan, the father of three children, filed a case against the company for failing to institute or enforce a safe system of transport for himself and other workers and did not carry out risk assessments to identify potential hazards.

Murugan launched a lawsuit against Rigel Marine Services, seeking 100,000 Singapore dollars ($73,500) in damages in 2022.

Muruggan’s lawyer, Muhamad Ashraf Syed Ansarai said, “He injured himself coming down from a lorry which was overcrowded – a simple thing that turned out to be risky…It is not uncommon for companies, especially those involved in heavy construction, to take risk assessments for granted”.

However, representatives for Rigel Marine Services denied the claims and said Murugan’s accident was “caused by his own carelessness in failing to watch his footing before alighting from the lorry.”

However, on 17 August, the district judge ruled in favour of Murugan, saying that there had clearly been “a breach of duty by the company.”

Singapore has immensely benefitted from cheap foreign labourers for decades.

Millions of workers from India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and China go to Singapore every year for work opportunities in construction and maritime industries, toiling outdoors for long hours sometimes in extreme weather, and without a minimum wage.

These workers live in their dormitories and are transported on the back of lorries – often overcrowded and without passenger seats or seat belts. This practice has resulted in numerous road accidents and fatalities for workers over the years.


Plenty of reports have emerged about the shoddy condition of migrant labourers in Singapore. Several road accidents have also been reported but the government has still not framed any strict policies in this regard.

On 21 April 2021, a lorry carrying 17 migrant workers to a work site collided with a tipper truck along an expressway, killing two men – Toffazal Hossain from Bangladesh and Sugunan Shudeeshmon from India.

On 26 July, three lorries, two ferrying migrant workers, collided on a major highway

A day later, another lorry, which was ferrying at least 10 workers, collided with a car on an expressway.


The Singapore government has completedly ignored the condition of migrant labourers and never supported a ban on unsafe transportation practices by the companies. Amy Khor, senior minister of state for the Ministry of Transport in Singapore said, “We recognize that it isn’t ideal for workers to be transported on lorries but we also understand the genuine concerns from employers”. On August 2, in parliament, she said, “Employers have stated that if the government imposes a ban, many companies, especially small and medium enterprises, will not be able to continue operating their businesses”.

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Updated: 27 Aug 2023, 02:08 PM IST

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