In his first speech in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi took on the Mulayam Singh Yadav government over the plight of the state’s sugarcane farmers. Taking the cue, the Congress state unit too has stepped up protests. Rahul says the state failed to ensure that sugar mills paid cane growers their dues for 2002-03. The SC, in a May 2004 order, had directed that the farmers’ dues be paid by the mills. The 102 sugar mills in the state owe the farmers over Rs 500 crore. Last week, the sugar mills began paying up but the total amount disbursed so far is just Rs 52 crore. Responding to the allegations, Mulayam said in the UP assembly that his government would take all steps to ensure payment to the farmers. The mills, under intense political pressure, have agreed to pay up but, in a representation to the state government, have asked that the latter share the financial burden.