The Maharashtra Government will use an obscure section of the land acquisition act to forcibly takeover land in the tribal district of Palghar for the prestigious bullet train project. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government will invoke the little-known section 96 of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, Resettlement Act, 2013, to compulsory take over the remaining land for the project stuck after locals objected to price-based ‘private negotiation’ acquisition proceeding for the Mumbai-Ahemdabad High Speed Rail Corridor. With the end of Lok Sabha elections, the government feels the situation is right to take some hard decisions in dealing with the protests, said senior officials present in a meeting with Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta on Saturday. The meeting was called to discuss application of Section 96 under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP). Chapter 8 of the MRTP provides for compulsory acquisition of land required for public purposes in respect of planned development or regional plans by the concerned authority. “We have discussed giving as much as four times the value of land for the bullet train project even when forcibly acquired. The Government feels it is time for the price-based negotiations to end. We need to move fast to finish rest of the acquisition proceedings,” said a senior official present at the meeting. The Government has also decided to put in place a new compensation policy for encroachment on land meant for the bullet train. “The new policy will ensure both the encroacher and the land owner are duly compensated, something the previous law had neglected.”An estimated 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up land for the ₹1.08 lakh-crore project. Additionally, 7,974 plots belonging to the forest and railway authorities will have to be acquired in both States. On August 25, 2018, at a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Secretary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set a deadline of December 2018 for completing land survey and acquisition. However, a report of the Palghar District Collector last year revealed that the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) did not have a time-bound schedule to meet the deadline. The Collector’s report had said of the 108.059 km land needed for the project, much is yet to be acquired through the government’s ‘private negotiation’ policy. Acquisition of the land — spread over 73 villages in Palghar, Vasai, Talasari, Dahanu, Wada and Shahapur villages — is being held up due to protests from local villagers, the Collector had said. The train, with a capacity of 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km an hour and 350 km an hour and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahemdabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the present eight. The project is expected to be completed in seven years.