The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Maharashtra government may soon forcibly acquire farmland for the proposed 701-km Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway, the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. The expressway is said to be a pet project of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The proposed project seeks to connect 26 talukas and 392 villages, and make 14 tourist destinations more accessible, DNA reported.

The state government will use a recently revised Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 to acquire 1,485 hectares of private land, or about 20% of the 8,636 hectares needed for the proposed project.

Of the total land required, 7,290 hectares are privately owned. Last week, the government issued a notification for the compulsory acquisition of the land and gave the owners of the until June 25 to settle.

The amendment allows the government to circumvent the requirement of conducting compulsory impact assessment studies and reduces the importance of public consent. Post the deadline set up by the government, land owners stand to get less compensation for their property – “only two to four times the ready reckoner price compared to five times in the normal circumstances”.

The government will start providing the compensation once all the land required is acquired. “Of 8,636 hectares of land required, we have already acquired 7,145.21 hectares and only 1,485 hectares are yet to be acquired,” Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Managing Director and Vice Chairperson Radheshyam Mopalwar said. “Of the land to be acquired, 1,408 hectares could not be acquired owing to technical/legal reasons related to title disputes, ownership by religious trusts, forested land, etc.”

Farmers in Nashik and Thane are particularly averse to the project as they stand to lose irrigated farmland. Critics of the project have accused the state of being “anti-farmer”.