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This meant that our men had to wear special raincoats to go inside and work, which was extremely difficult given the heat.
The brackish water also meant corrosion of the metal used inside the shafts.
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 security of information and activities from satellites, spies on the ground and even the general public and our troops was paramount given the leaks earlier, but along with that we also had to create and maintain six shafts as opposed to one in 1974,” Kaushik said.When the time arrived, Kaushik and Sharma came up with the “Billiards Sticks Concept”.“The name was given later by Santhanam, as what we did was inspired by the way cue sticks used to be arranged in Billiard parlours,” Kaushik recollected.Code named Operation Shakti, the 1998 tests in Pokhran were the second time India tested its nuclear capability, following on from the failed efforts in 1995-96 when the country had to put off the tests owing to international pressure led by the US as details of the tests got leaked.The challenges, therefore, were many, unlike in 1974 when India under Indira Gandhi carried out the first test – code named ‘Smiling Buddha’.