The Cox’s Bazar administration conducted numerous operations to rid the beaches of hawkers and beggars, but without success.
The beach city has a huge number of beggars, a majority of whom are children. Born into dire straits, they resort to tactics which are uncomfortable for tourists, in order to extort money from them.
But in some cases the hustling becomes nightmarish when they continue their pestering despite receiving money, tugging at clothes and clutching at bags or hands, as numerous tourists have described their experience of Cox’s Bazar.
Giving money out of generosity has unfortunately become a cornerstone of a non-violent form of extortion. Few tourists, if any at all, rarely make a trip without having been compelled to pay up. A foreign tourist is not only more alarmed than their Bangladeshi counterparts, but they also take back a regrettable memory that could have been much sweeter.
Reports of assaults on tourists are uncommon, but not unheard of. Many beggars, especially the children, hurl epithets at and spit upon tourists who refuse to comply with incessant demands for money. Some cases stand out, like demanding US dollar and refusing taka.
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Cox’s Bazar is visited by thousands every day coming from all over Bangladesh as well as the rest of the world. But the experience of visiting the world’s longest sea beach is marred, consistently, as hawkers and beggars doggedly pursue tourists to purchase counterfeit products or give alms.
Terror on the beach
On the beach, speedboat operators, beach-chair renters and photographers scam tourists by overcharging for their services.
A couple from Comilla told the Dhaka Tribune of their assault by a beach-chair owner. The couple had refused to pay extra for taking a few minutes to pack up their things before leaving.
Chowdhury Akbar, a tourist, said: “Beggars are coming after us in droves. It seems that we have come here to pay the beggars, not to enjoy ourselves.”
Rahim Ali, a freedom fighter, said: “Some photographers kept bothering us to take photos when we set foot on the beach. They would not take no for an answer. They only relented when we acquiesced to their demands.”
He remarked that if the authorities did not take necessary steps to drive away the beggars and hawkers from the beach, tourists would eventually stop coming.
The Dhaka Tribune contacted the local police to check regarding these allegations.
Khondoker Fazle Rabbi, additional superintendent of tourist police, said: “We have banned beggars, hawkers and vendors from the beach.”
Mohammad Ali, deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, said: “We have taken initiatives to drive away beggars and vendors from the beach and we are conducting operations against them.”
In spite of the administration’s bans and operations, the beach is still not free of the hustlers.
As winter approaches, Cox’s Bazar will have its peak tourist season. Unless effective measures are implemented, more and more tourists will have to endure the nuisance at the beach.