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Since 2006 Singur in West Bengal has been the centre of a controversy over land acquisition for a Tata Motors car manufacturing unit. A local rural movement challenging the land acquisition soon attracted the support of various activist groups and political parties from across India, and in late 2008 it succeeded in forcing Tata Motors to abandon Singur. This article uses the Singur controversy as a prism on the contested and contentious nature of development in contemporary India. I analyse the arguments raised respectively for and against the model of development embodied in the Singur factory by five sets of actors, who have been involved in the Singur controversy : (1) West Bengal’s Left Front government ; (2) economists ; (3) Singur farmers opposed to the factory ; (4) social activists and NGOs ; and (5) and opposition political parties in West Bengal. I argue that in spite of massive public attention that the Singur controversy received, and the fierce criticism of the Left Front that it generated, the voices of those who fundamentally challenged the policy of industrialising through private capital in the name of development have been rather marginal. Rather than opposing and / or promoting alternatives to the ‘neoliberal’ post-reform models of development pursued in India, the Singur controversy should be seen as part of a popular effort to civilise rather than substitute contemporary forms of capitalist development to ensure that some of the benefits do trickle down.