Beehives loom over an election vehicle at the stadium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Tuesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Five eyes to each face. And the enemy is watching the EVMs that will be sent to each of the 14 Lok Sabha parliamentary seats in Jharkhand, daring poll officials to fight them.
No, it is not a pre-poll Maoist ambush. It’s the stinging truth at Birsa Munda Football Stadium at Morabadi, Ranchi, converted into the centralised EVM cell, from whose 35-feet-high ceiling hang at least 30 beehives.
Any school-goer knows every bee ever born has five eyes, three compound ones at that. And the sting of a honeybee is more painful than a bumble bee. Simply because the honeybee’s stinger is barbed, while its genetic cousin’s is smooth.
Fearing the honeybee assault, around 30 officials deputed to safeguard EVM machines at the stadium don’t come outside the hall without covering up their faces.
With good reason. On March 20, computer operator of district election office Dipesh Kumar was attacked by scores of bees when he stepped out to make a phone call.
“Since network is weak inside the hall, I came outside to receive a call. Swarms of bees stung me on my head, face and back. When my colleagues tried to save me, they were also stung.”
Dipesh’s condition became so serious that he was admitted to the RIMS ICU, where he remained for three days.
Colleagues Niral Uday Toppo, Praveen Kumar Lal and Kartik Munda were stung on poll duty on March 21. “They felt like needles, injections,” grimaces Lal.
A poll duty officer, with the reputation of a humorist, said bees behaved like Maoists.
“They are good in guerrilla warfare. They attack us and vanish and you can’t count them,” he said. Pointing at three huge beehives above the hall gate, he asked: “Will you find beehives at stadiums in other states?”
Pramod Kumar Singh, secretary RRDA who is posted here as a senior official of EVM cell, said: “These are beasts. I have told district administration about the health threat.”
Ranchi DC-cum-returning officer Vinay Kumar Choubey said he was aware of the sting. “Removing beehives hanging from 35 feet is difficult. Even the ladder of fire tender or the jets of a water cannon can’t reach them. I have asked everybody to take precautions,” he said.