Effect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on Malnutrition of Infants in Rajasthan, India: A Mixed Methods Study

Effect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on Malnutrition of Infants in Rajasthan, India: A Mixed Methods Study

This paper aims to analyse the effect of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a wage-foremployment policy of the Indian Government, on infant malnutrition and delineate the pathways through which MGNREGA affects infant malnutrition.

This is a cross-sectional study with additional focus group discussions conducted on Infants aged 1 to ,12 months and their mothers/caregivers to assess thwe difference in Infant malnutrition measured using anthropometric indicators - underweight, stunting, and wasting between households receiving MGNREGA and households which do not.

Households participating in MGNREGA were less likely to have wasted infants and less likely to have underweight infants than non-participating households. Stunting did not differ significantly between groups. Although MGNREGA reduced starvation, it did not provide the desired benefits because of lower than standard wages and delayed payments. The authors conclude that participation in MGNREGA was associated with reduced infant malnutrition possibly mediated indirectly via improved birth-weight rather than by improved infant feeding. Addressing factors such as lack of mothers’ knowledge and inappropriate feeding practices, over and above the social and economic policies, is key in efforts to reduce infant malnutrition.