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Survivors Of Bhopal Tragedy Want Obama's Help

Hundreds of survivors called for visiting President Obama to help extradite former head of the American company blamed in the world's worst industrial disaster.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Hundreds of survivors of the 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal called Monday for visiting President Barack Obama to help extradite the former head of the American company blamed in the world's worst industrial disaster and pursue liability claims on behalf of the victims.

On the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by a Union Carbide subsidiary leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air, quickly killing about 4,000 people. Lingering effects of the poison raised the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to government estimates.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical says it has no liability because it did not own Union Carbide at the time of the leak and that Union Carbide's settlement payment resolved the legal case.

The gas leak is a sensitive issue for Indians, many of whom feel that the victims were not properly compensated.

That feeling was exacerbated by the swift response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill this spring. The U.S. government pushed BP to establish a $20 billion compensation fund for that disaster, while Union Carbide paid only $470 million in compensation for the world's worst industrial disaster.

Carrying placards reading "Change this double standard," nearly 250 survivors gathered at a traditional protest space close to India's parliament, where Obama addressed Indian lawmakers Monday afternoon.

Rashida Bee, a spokeswoman for one of the survivors' organizations, expressed her disappointment at the absence of a response from U.S. officials to their request for a meeting with Obama.

D. Raja, a Communist Party of India leader, told the survivors that Washington maintained one standard of accountability on its own soil and another one abroad.

Ghanshyam Ojha, 68, lost his son in the disaster.

"I have received only 50,000 rupees ($1,110) as compensation," he told The Associated Press.

Sushila Bir, 70, lost her husband in the leak, but said she got no compensation at all.

In June, an Indian court convicted seven former employees of Union Carbide of "death by negligence" and sentenced them to two years in prison.

Many in India saw the verdict as far too light a punishment for the tragedy.

The Indian government in response to a public outcry said it would renew efforts to extradite U.S. citizen Warren Anderson, the former head of Union Carbide, and pursue liability claims against Dow Chemical. But neither effort has gone anywhere.