Tanul Thakur, the 29-year-old creator of www.dowrycalculator.com has dismissed the calls by Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and Member of Parliament Jyotiraditya Scindia to take down his portal.
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had flagged the website for its content in a tweet, followed by Maneka Gandhi, who shot a letter to Minister of Information &Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad to block the site with recommendation that cases be slapped against its facilitators under Dowry Prohibition Act.
Someone just brought this site to my attention. Absolutely shameful! Let me remind the developers that giving or taking dowry is illegal in India. I urge the @MinistryWCD, @PMOIndia to take immediate action against this.https://t.co/KQWBxQtd7J— Jyotiraditya Scindia (@JM_Scindia) May 28, 2018
"I am surprised that Jyotiraditya Schindia and Maneka Gandhi were confused that the portal promotes dowry. Had they gone through the portal or clicked on the parameters, they would have surely ascertained that the portal is not promoting dowry but is a satirical take on such prominent social evil. But they examined only what was on the surface," said Thakur, a freelance writer by profession who is based out of Delhi.
The eight-year old website, claims to satirically calculate the 'true worth' of prospective grooms based on their age, caste, profession, monthly income, skin colour, height, groom’s father’s profession etc. It claims to be "Dedicated to all the match making aunties of India" and requires colour input from the groom such as “Pitch black (Not visible on a moonless night)” to “Wheatish (Almost white, Would need some Fair n Lovely)”.
It’s not the first time that the dowry calculator has been in news since May 6, 2011 when the portal was first launched. "Yes, I recollect TV 9 in Telugu ran a segment in 2011, similarly TV9 reported on it in 2013 and 2014. They went to the backend of the site and pulled up all my details and recommended police action, but that's it," he said.
While Thakur admits that even some of his well-wishers have advised him to publish an upfront disclaimer that the portal was satire, he says he is reluctant. "There is dumbing-down of entertainment in the country. Anything has to be flattened down and to be served in platter to the masses for approval... I am not going to do that. I won’t put any disclaimer. I won’t bring down the buckle as I feel satire is evident," he said.
The repeated commotion over his site has only helped the portal achieve over a lakh visitors. However, Thakur said he has never monetized on it.
"I have not visited the back end of the site for over four-years. In fact I have not been smart about it. I continue to pay the annual maintenance fee of close to Rs. 3000 for hosting it, though I have been told that there are cheaper ways to do it. But the website makes fun of the practice, I think why not?" he said.
So far Thakur says he has never faced an inquiry or received summons by the police. "I plan to continue. I wanted something funny, entertaining but also poke fun of patriarchal structure of society. If the government wants to let them down, let them do it, but I will continue till the complex system of dowry exists in India, which probably maybe my lifetime," he said