Liberia: 'Visionary Philanthropist'

Business tycoon Dr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva  (first from left)

... …Monrovia Central Prison lauds business tycoon Jeety whose support for the prison and the inmates were captured by the US government 2022 human rights report on Liberia.

The authorities of the Monrovia Central Prison have described business tycoon Dr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva as a 'visionary philanthropist' who has never wavered in providing support to the prison and its inmates.

The prison Superintendent, Varney Lake, while receiving food donations from Dr. Sachdeva (Jeety), which was then divided among the inmates, noted that the gesture from the Indian businessman is something that needs to be replicated by lots of people.

“Jeety has been making great efforts in supporting the Monrovia Central Prison welfare systems.  His support is impactful both in the short and long-term and it involves seeking the wellbeing of prisoners and making them feel love again. His decision to continuously make contributions towards the improvement of prison facilities and feeding of inmates is intended to help ensure that prisoners who are rehabilitated can return to their respective communities as productive citizens.”

The Prison Superintendent added that they are aware of the government’s constraints in terms of maintaining prisons, but whenever they make an appeal, Dr. Sachdeva is always available to assist with their needs.

Lake’s praise of Dr. Sachdeva’s humanitarian deeds comes one week after the United States Department of State 2021 Report on Liberia mentioned the businessman’s efforts in combating hunger among inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison, via his regular feeding programs while helping to improve the facility’s sanitary conditions.

In December of 2021, Jeety supported the fixing of the prison water supply — putting an end to the inadequate water supply and the daily task of inmates fetching water for hygiene and drinking. Before the fix, prisoners used to collect and distribute water across the prison facilities by turn. Worst of all, they suffered also from plumbing problems, making life in the prisons even more miserable as a result of prisoners being unable to flush toilets for days.

Additionally, the fix includes the installation of 2,500-liter poly tanks for water storage, along with a 5.5 KVA generator for the supply of water when there is a power outage from the Liberia Electricity Corporation. And when the prison ran out of food in August of 2021, he was there to provide emergency support until the Liberian government could come in. The cooked meal that is being divided in the prison is given along with water, cake, and soft drink.

The issue of lack of running water and broken sewage at the prison, which has now been fixed by Mr. Sachdeva, are among the many age-old problems challenging the aging prisons. Prisoners without access to running water used to put their bottles through the cell bars so they could be filled by inmates who were allowed outside to fetch water and climb the steps of the prison with the water, which is then poured into the bottles.

Currently, the prison also suffers from gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, and poor medical care. 

Approximately one-half of the country’s 2,572 prisoners were at the Monrovia Central Prison, which was originally built for 374 detainees but now hosts more than 1000 prisoners. The local nongovernmental organization (NGO), Prison Fellowship Liberia, reported that overcrowding in Block D of the Monrovia Central Prison required prisoners to sleep in shifts and that prisoner diets remained poor. The Prison sometimes served rice alone, with prisoners purchasing oil from vendors at the prison to supplement their diet, according to the U.S. government report on Human Rights Practices in Liberia for 2020.

Dr. Sachdeva is the former Indian Honorary Consul General to Liberia and the owner of various businesses operating in the country.

He launched his Home-Cooked Hot Meal Program in February 2017 to help alleviate the high rate of hunger and poverty in Liberia. Since its inauguration, the program has provided meals to over 3 million Liberians. It gained prominence during the first outbreak of the Coronavirus in Liberia in March 2020.

Commenting on the US government mentioned. Dr. Sachdeva noted that such recognition has inspired him to continue to give to humanity in post-conflict Liberia.

“The US State Department report gives me more enthusiasm to do more. When you are appreciated and recognized, you feel honored. This gives me more inspiration to do more than what I am doing every day.  It is better to give than to receive and don’t give to get. Give to inspire others and this is what I am trying to do. I urge my fellow business partners here to do more for the society.”

 “We all are prisoners of our actions. We who are living outside should serve as sources to provide or help to feed them (inmates). I have brought meals for almost 1500 people to make them feel part of the society”.

He then used the occasion to disclose plans to help give a facelift to various prison facilities across the country — the next in line being the Kakata Central Prison in Margibi County.

He continued: “My heart and soul are in Liberia and I am very proud of what this country has given me. I will not get tired or rest to give back to the Liberian people, especially those who are in need”.