The man was first spotted atop the tower around 2.30 p.m., after which the railway police began efforts to bring him down. The entrance to the clock tower is a wooden door with an iron mesh, nestled in an alcove and hidden from public view by transformers on the first floor of the heritage building.
The narrow, cement spiralling stairwell is dark and dingy until it reaches a platform about 50 ft from the ground. After that another spiral stairway leads to the clock tower. Above the tower, a twin ladder leads to the flag pole on a platform.
According to station manager S. Govindasamy, the stairwell is opened only for flag hoisting on August 15 and January 26. It is the duty of the station manager to hoist the flag, he said. “He probably broke the lock and entered the staircase,” he added.
Railway police tried to entice the man with food and water. When they acceded to his demand of food, the man apparently refused to let them enter the platform and asked them to extend the food packets and water to him. Initially, he was sitting on the tower but when fire service personnel tried to break open the platform he climbed on to the flag pole.
Crowds gathered outside the railway station and swelled as fire officials struggled to rescue the man. It was only around 6 p.m., that a Bronto Skylift, equipment used to reach high-rise structures, was deployed. A fire official said all those who had been trained to operate the machine had since retired and that a new batch was now being trained. The younger firemen did not know how to operate the machine. Efforts to reach the trained, retired officers were fruitless as their mobile phones were either switched off or not reachable.
At 6.50 p.m., the Skylift reached the man on the flag pole after one failed attempt, and plucked him off the pole. The hundreds of people who had gathered outside the station cheered. The show came to an end for them with slogans being shouted in praise of the firemen.
Railway police said the man, K. Deepak, hails from Nepal and had come to Chennai 10 years ago. He is married to Sitadevi in Nepal, and has two children. He had earlier worked in Tambaram and later moved to a shop supplying water cans.
On Monday afternoon, he had entered the tower when the watchman on duty had gone for lunch, police said. He is reported to have told the police that someone had filed a case against him and he was afraid for his life.
Railway police have registered a case against Deepak, under provisions of the Mental Health Act. He will be produced before a magistrate on Tuesday and sent for treatment, said DSP (Government Railway Poilce), V. Ponram.