UPA’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (NREGA) reduces child malnutrition, but only in the short term, says University of Oxford study.
The first effort to analyse the effect of NREGA on child nutrition, the study was carried out on infants in 528 households in Durgarpur district of Rajasthan. During the study period, 53% of the households received payment under NREGA.
“Participation in NREGA reduced acute malnutrition, but not chronic malnutrition among infants,” says Manisha Nair, Weidenfield scholar at the Nuffield department of population health at the university.
While NREGA wages helped families avoid starvation when agricultural jobs dried up, many mothers complained wages were paid late or not in full. This meant NREGA’s intended benefits weren’t delivered in full, researchers said.
It appeared from focus-group discussions that drawbacks in implementation like low wages, delayed payments and corruption prevented sustainable long-term benefits, important to address chronic child malnutrition, Nair said.
Ensuring timely payment could improve food security and improve NREGA’s impact, Nair says, adding that similar studies were needed to gauge the scheme’s impact on child nutrition in different social, economic and geographical settings.