Kalpakkam looks like a war zone. With intelligence inputs warning of terrorist strikes on nuclear installations across the country, dozens of army pickets have spawned in the last three days in this town which houses the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre.
Tents, security posts manned by gun-totting guards, naval patrols and restrictions on civilian movement have disrupted the normal pace of the town, 75 kilometres from Chennai.
"We've never seen so many military trucks in this area. Even during VVIP visits only the police would be present in large numbers. This is a strange experience for us," said Kumaran a mechanic at Sadras village, a km from the nuclear complex.
Police had told locals that shutters of shops should be down by 8 p.m. and no one should venture out after that except for compelling reasons.
Fishermen are the worst hit. They've been instructed not to venture out to the seas till the alert is lifted. "Four days on the shore means we lose anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000. And who'll compensate for this loss," asked Vasanth Raj of Meyyur Kupam. Three fishing villages come under the security ambit and naval vessels patrolling the Bay of Bengal ensure that no fisherman violates the ban.
A few days ago, a company of NSG commandoes was flown in to take position at strategic points inside the complex. It is estimated that a 5,000 strong force is protecting the Kalpakkam complex and nearby areas.
Kancheepuram collector Pradeep Yadav summed up the extra security. "It's better to be safe than sorry."