Singapore Indian Development Association

The Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) is a self-help group for Singapore’s Indian community. It supports education, assists families in need and fosters collaboration with related organisations. Its mission is to “build a well-educated, resilient and confident community of Indians that stands together with other communities in contributing to the progress of multi-racial Singapore”. SINDA, like its counterparts the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community (Yayasan MENDAKI), Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and Eurasian Association (EA), provides a range of educational and social services and programmes to assist its target community.1

In September 1990, then Minister for National Development S. Dhanabalan announced the formation of two new groups: SINDA and the Action Committee on Indian Education (ACIE). The aim of these two groups was to investigate and address the issue of under-achievement of Indian students in relation to the Chinese population.2

The action committee was tasked to improve the academic performance of Indian students and devise a plan which SINDA would then implement. The committee uncovered a number of social issues underlying the poor performance of these students. Its report, entitled “At the Crossroads”, was released in July 1991, proposing a plan to bring Indian students on par with Chinese students, at all educational levels, within 20 years. The report also highlighted that other voluntary welfare organisations offering relevant services would have access to a common pool of expertise, learning resources and funds.3

Role of SINDA
The causes for Indian under-performance could be attributed to the social divide between the labouring class and the professional business elite, in addition to other inter-community differences. Poverty and the lack of parental guidance were compounded by social ills such as alcohol abuse and a preoccupation with movies. When SINDA was formed, its main focus initially was to rectify social issues. In December 1991, it was restructured so that it could implement the recommendations of the ACIE report effectively. To achieve its objectives, SINDA was structured into two wings: an education wing targeted at Indian students and their parents, and the Welfare Wing to focus on strengthening the family unit. The two wings would collaborate to raise the academic standards of Indian students as well as identify and understand the reasons for underachievement.4

Fund raising
Similar to the system used for collecting donations for the Islamic religious council Mendaki, Indian Singaporeans would make monthly donations to SINDA. Under the CPF/SINDA check-off scheme, the amount of monthly contributions to be paid by Indian Singaporeans would vary according to their salaries.5 The CPF Act was amended accordingly, enabling SINDA to raise an estimated S$2.5 million annually.6

Launch of tuition programmes

By late 1991, SINDA’s endowment fund had reached S$2 million. In early 1992, SINDA launched a nation-wide tuition programme targeted at students with borderline scores who were preparing for major examinations at both primary and secondary levels. The classes in English, Mathematics and Science were conducted by qualified teachers using materials prepared by the Ministry of Education and the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore.7

Cooperation with other groups

In 2001, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong urged self-help groups to join hands in running programmes to build a more cohesive and multi-racial society.8

In terms of services, SINDA was already working with other partners. In 1993, it partnered the Eurasian Association for its joint tuition programme.9 Later, SINDA and MENDAKI came together in 1999 under the umbrella organisation, the Joint Social Service Centre (JSSC), to set up a mini family service centre that offered counselling, referral services and family life programmes for people of all races.10

SINDA in 2010
SINDA’s objective of raising the educational levels of Indian students within 20 years has expanded as its role in the community has become more prominent. Its role now encompasses not only education but also social services, training and community bonding. It has become the “brand name” of Singapore’s Indian community, having organised many programmes in partnership with other Indian and non-Indian organisations, as well as developed a strong volunteer pool. The JSSC, renamed in 2007, continues to coordinate the efforts of SINDA and the other three ethnic self-help groups in promoting racial harmony.11


Roberta Balagopal

1. SINDA. (2016). About. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from SINDA website:
2. Excel, Dhana urges Indians. (1990, September 3). The New Paper, p. 7; Action groups set up. (1990, September 3). The New Paper, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. At the crossroads: Report of the Action Committee on Indian education. (1991). Singapore: The Committee. (Call no.: RSING 371.97948105957 AT); Three Indian MPs appointed to Sinda’s Board of Trustees (1991, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Perera, A. (2011). A place in the community: SINDA at 20, looking back, moving forward. Singapore: Singapore Indian Development Association, pp. 35–41. (Call no.: RSING 305.89141105957 PER); Fernandez, W. (1991, December 30). Sinda to start tuition classes nation-wide. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Sinda check-off scheme for contributions starts today (1992, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. CPF Act to allow deductions for Sinda. (1991, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Fernandez, W. (1991, December 30). Sinda to start tuition classes nation-wide. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Boey, D. (2001, February 26). PM Goh urges self-help groups to join hands in running programmes. The Business Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Sinda and Eurasian Association joint tuition classes start. (1993, March 2). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1999, June 12). Sinda, Mendaki set up centre. The Straits Times, p. 55. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Perera, A. (2011). A place in the community. Singapore: Singapore Indian Development Association, pp. 87–127. (Call no: RSING305.89141105957 PER)

The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


East Indians--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
East Indians--Societies, etc