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About a hundred scientists, led by the former chairman of the atomic commission, R Chidambaram, former Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) chief Anil Kakodkar, former president and then Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief APJ Abdul Kalam, and DRDO adviser K Santhanam, Kaushik and his men worked cautiously.The 58th Regiment had a vast high security area with periphery of outer fence measuring 24 km, with an intermediate fence of 11 km and inner fence of 6 km.So, when “Buddha Smiled” again on May 11 and 13 of 1998, there were a lot of stories.And, of the many stories around Operation Shakti, the most popular has been how India handed US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) its significant defeat, keeping the spying agency completely in the dark.
From code names to decoy security posts and from carrying out work in the night and returning equipment to their spots before the satellites came back to track in the morning, the army was literally working in camouflage in extreme weather conditions—temperatures going up to 51 degrees Celsius in summers and minus three in the winters — in a place infested by snakes and scorpions.
The water would then collect in the well below the canteen (a storage place built to hold the bombs) that had to be pumped out every day,” he said.
But that didn’t solve the problem completely as the pumped out water could not be released onto the sand as it would have changed colour which would be observed by the satellites.
We didn’t have that luxury as the satellites would pick it up.
In 1995-96 the satellites had picked up half-a-day’s work,” he said.